From Encyclopedia Britannia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
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 states currently operate carriers that use the CATOBAR system following the decommissioning of Brazil's NAe São Paulo in February 2017; the U.S. with its Nimitz-class and Gerald R. Ford-class and France with its Charles De Gaulle.

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

Active CATOBAR aircraft carrier classes

Class Picture Origin No. of ships Propulsion Displacement Operator Aircraft carried Catapult
Nimitz USS Nimitz (CVN-68).jpg United States 10 Nuclear 100,020 t (220,510,000 lb)

United States Navy

F/A-18C Hornet
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
F-35C Lightning II
C-2 Greyhound
E-2C/D Hawkeye
C-13-1 or C-13-2 steam
Gerald R. Ford USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk on 14 April 2017.JPG United States 1 Nuclear 100,000 t (220,000,000 lb) United States Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
F-35C Lightning II
E-2D Hawkeye
Charles de Gaulle Charles De Gaulle (R91) underway 2009.jpg France 1 Nuclear 42,500 t (93,700,000 lb) French Navy Rafale M
E-2C Hawkeye
C-13-3 steam

Potential users

The Chinese Type 003 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?".
  2. "US-India Collaboration on Aircraft Carriers: A Good Idea?".
  3. "Indian Navy seeks EMALS system for second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier".
  4. "Gerald R Ford Class (CVN 78/79)". Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  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.
  6. "China Claims to have Developed Conventionally Powered Electromagnetic Catapult" (archived copy ed.). Archived from the original on 2017-11-11. Retrieved 2018-01-01.
  7. "Indian Navy seeks EMALS system for second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier".