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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 more costly 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.[citation needed]

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


Main article: Aircraft catapult

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.


Only three countries currently operate carriers that use the CATOBAR system; the U.S. Nimitz-class, France's Charles De Gaulle, and Brazil's NAe São Paulo.

Future US Navy Gerald R. Ford-class carriers will use the EMALS electromagnetic aircraft launch system in place of steam catapults.[1]

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.[2]

Active CATOBAR Aircraft Carriers[edit]

Class Picture Origin No.of ships Propulsion Displacement Operator Aircraft Carried
Nimitz USS Nimitz (CVN-68).jpg United States 10 Nuclear 100020 100,020 tonnes

United States Navy

*F/A-18 Hornet

*C-2 *Greyhound

*E-2 Hawkeye

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

* Super Étendard
* E-2C Hawkeye


Brazilian aircraft carrier São Paulo (A12).jpg France 1 Conventional 24,200 tonnes Brazilian Navy *A-4 Skyhawk