Kabul plane was not inflatable decoy

25 August 2021
What was claimed

The C-17 aircraft filmed leaving Kabul airport was inflatable.

Our verdict

There is no evidence this is true. The post compares a video with a still image. Other footage of the aircraft does not show it moving in the same way an inflatable would.

This article links to footage that is potentially distressing.

A post on Facebook claims that a US aircraft photographed leaving Afghanistan was an inflatable decoy. 

As multiple other fact checking services such as Check Your Fact and Reuters have previously written about similar claims, there is no evidence that this is true. 

Thousands of people have been evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, with the site becoming the focus of worldwide media attention.

The plane the post describes as “inflated” is a US Air Force C-17 aircraft, which was filmed leaving the airport on Monday 16 August. We have written about footage of this aircraft before, which appeared to show several people falling as it took off. The picture in the Facebook post seems to have been taken from a similar clip that shows people clinging to the aircraft on the runway as it prepared to leave. 

If the plane was inflatable it would not have been able to support the people who climbed underneath its wing. Even if it had the surface would have warped under their weight, but the video shows the ledge remaining rigid

The screenshot used in the Facebook post is also low quality, which means the structure of the C-17 is poorly defined and makes it appear smoother than it really is. 

The picture of the C-17 plane is juxtaposed with footage from Quicksilver I (part of Operation Fortitude during World War Two), during which decoy landing craft were created out of relatively lightweight materials such as canvas and barrels to give the false impression that the Allied forces were preparing to invade France from the south east of England on D-Day. 

Equipment such as inflatable tanks were also used by the US Army in more than 20 operations throughout the Second World War. 

The footage from Quicksilver I clearly shows the decoy equipment moving like an inflatable when it is handled. This is not the case in the video from Kabul airport.  

The US Air Force has said it is reviewing the departure of the C-17 plane from Kabul. It did not confirm how many people were killed as the aircraft left, but confirmed human remains were found in the plane's wheel well after landing.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because there is no evidence to suggest the aircraft filmed leaving Kabul was inflatable.

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