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Flight deck of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, showing catapult layout
Catapult launches aboard USS Ronald Reagan

CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery or Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) is a system used for the launch and recovery of aircraft from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Under this technique, aircraft launch using a catapult-assisted take-off and land on the ship (the recovery phase) using arrestor wires.

Although this system is costlier than alternative methods, it provides greater flexibility in carrier operations, since it imposes less onerous design elements on fixed wing aircraft than alternative methods of launch and recovery such as STOVL or STOBAR, allowing for a greater payload for more ordnance and/or fuel. CATOBAR can launch aircraft that lack a high thrust to weight ratio, including heavier non-fighter aircraft such as the E-2 Hawkeye and Grumman C-2 Greyhound.[1][2][3]


The catapult system in use in modern CATOBAR carriers is the steam catapult. Its primary advantage is the amount of power and control it can provide. During World War II the US Navy used a hydraulic catapult.

The United States Navy is developing a system to launch carrier-based aircraft from catapults using a linear motor drive instead of steam, called the EMALS.

Current Users

Only two countries currently operate carriers that use the CATOBAR system following the decommissioning of Brazil's NAe São Paulo in February 2017; the U.S. Nimitz-class, U.S. Gerald R. Ford-class and France's Charles De Gaulle.

US Navy Gerald R. Ford-class carriers will use the EMALS electromagnetic aircraft launch system in place of steam catapults.[4]

Active CATOBAR Aircraft Carriers

Class Picture Origin No.of ships Propulsion Displacement Operator Aircraft Carried Catapult
Nimitz USS Nimitz (CVN-68).jpg United States 10 Nuclear 100,020 tonnes

United States Navy

*F/A-18 Hornet

*C-2 Greyhound

*E-2 Hawkeye

C-13-1 or C-13-2 steam
Gerald R. Ford CVN-78 Artist Image.jpg United States 1 Nuclear 100,000 tonnes United States Navy
  • F-35C

*E-2 Hawkeye

Charles de Gaulle Charles De Gaulle (R91) underway 2009.jpg France 1 Nuclear 37,085 tonnes French Navy * Rafale M

* E-2C Hawkeye

C-13-3 steam

Potential Users

The Chinese Type 002 aircraft carrier, currently under construction at the Jiangnan Shipyard, will feature an integrated electric propulsion system that will allow the operation of electromagnetic launch catapults, similar to the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) used by the United States Navy.[5][6]

INS Vishal, India's second indigenous aircraft carrier of the Vikrant-class, is planned to be of 65,000 ton displacement and to utilize the EMALS electromagnetic aircraft launch system developed by General Atomics as it supports heavier fighters, AEW aircraft and UCAVs that cannot launch using a STOBAR ski jump ramps.[7]

See also


  1. "How Effective Will China's Carrier-Based Fighters Be?".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "US-India Collaboration on Aircraft Carriers: A Good Idea?".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Indian Navy seeks EMALS system for second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Gerald R Ford Class (CVN 78/79)". Retrieved 15 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Minnie Chan (1 November 2017). "Breakthrough to power most advanced jet launch system on China's second home-grown aircraft carrier". South China Morning Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Indian Navy seeks EMALS system for second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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