Flight deck of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, showing catapult layout.
Catapult launches aboard USS Ronald Reagan
CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But (or 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 more costly than alternative methods, it provides greater flexibility in carrier operations, since it allows the vessel to support conventional aircraft. Alternative methods of launch and recovery can only use aircraft with STOVL or STOBAR capability.
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. A future catapult design, the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, is undergoing testing with the aim of creating a simpler, more compact launch system and will make its debut with the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) in late 2013.