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Subject: WW-2 Enterprise carrier - catapults? rss

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M@tthijs
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I'm subscribed to a Dutch popular historical magazine. Featuring in this episode is a short article about how the carriers developed and how they made the battleships obsolete, contrary to the opinion of the establishment.

Now, in a sort of 'sub article' (don't know how to call it in English) is a drawing of the Enterprise to show the uneducated reader what a carrier looked like inside &all. At the front deck, there's a text, telling the reader the Enterprise used 2 catapults to get the planes airborne.

Is that so?

I thought catapults were a post WW-2 invention. Now I can google and try to find out, but it far more fun (and often: informative) to just post it here and see what you grognards know about it. Thanks!
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Eddy Sterckx
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_Kael_ wrote:
At the front deck, there's a text, telling the reader the Enterprise used 2 catapults to get the planes airborne.

Is that so?


Yes and No

Yes they had them at the start of the war but they got removed during the war because they were found to be useless

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James Lowry
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_Kael_ wrote:
I thought catapults were a post WW-2 invention. Now I can google and try to find out, but it far more fun (and often: informative) to just post it here and see what you grognards know about it. Thanks!

Catapults were commonly used in WWII; just not on carriers. They were used on cruisers and battleships to launch scout floatplanes that would be retrieved by cranes after landing.

This photograph of the USS Baltimore should give you a decent look at what I'm talking about:
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_Kael_ wrote:
I'm subscribed to a Dutch popular historical magazine. Featuring in this episode is a short article about how the carriers developed and how they made the battleships obsolete, contrary to the opinion of the establishment.

Now, in a sort of 'sub article' (don't know how to call it in English) is a drawing of the Enterprise to show the uneducated reader what a carrier looked like inside &all. At the front deck, there's a text, telling the reader the Enterprise used 2 catapults to get the planes airborne.

Is that so?

I thought catapults were a post WW-2 invention. Now I can google and try to find out, but it far more fun (and often: informative) to just post it here and see what you grognards know about it. Thanks!


Yes, ENTERPRISE had 2 hydraulic catapults on the forward flight deck. Note that today's carriers use steam catapults, and future carriers (beginning with CVN 78 GERALD R. FORD) will use the new EMALS (Electro-MAgnetic Launch System) catapult.

My understanding is that ENTERPRISE and her 2 sisters rarely used the catapults.
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Ryan Powers
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_Kael_ wrote:


I thought catapults were a post WW-2 invention. Now I can google and try to find out, but it far more fun (and often: informative) to just post it here and see what you grognards know about it. Thanks!


Additionally some catapults were fitted to allow the launching of aircraft directly from the hangar deck. But these weren't always installed, and were often removed when they were:



The idea was to be able to launch things like scouts while the deck was otherwise occupied.
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Seth Owen
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During the early years of the war catapults were only used occasionally, planes simply flew off the deck. This was a simpler and faster methed than a catapult launch.

In the later part of the war as aircraft got heavier (newer models like the TBF Avenger were larger and heavier than their predecessors) AND planes carried more ordnance catapult launches became more common.

Once jets came, of course, catapults became mandatory.
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eddy_sterckx wrote:
_Kael_ wrote:
At the front deck, there's a text, telling the reader the Enterprise used 2 catapults to get the planes airborne.

Is that so?


Yes and No

Yes they had them at the start of the war but they got removed during the war because they were found to be useless



Did the main deck catapults get pulled? I know they didn't get used all that much, particularly early on. Hangar (like in the image I posted above) and cross-deck catapults were often removed or not installed in the first place.

A quick look nets me multiple comments about the main (bow) catapults become more useful as the war progressed which is what I thought, but none of the quickly searched documents provide references... so it's always possible that what I thought was just something incorrect that I picked up somewhere.

Many carriers also had arrestor gear at both ends to allow "backwards" recovery if needed. This was often removed IIRC.
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keethrax wrote:
Did the main deck catapults get pulled? I know they didn't get used all that much. Hangar (like in the image I posted above) and cross-deck catapults were often removed or not installed in the first place.


The flight deck cats were retained but the hangar catapults were removed from the three Yorktown-class carriers (including Enterprise) in 1942.

If you want to see a hangar catapult launch, check out the movie Wing and A Prayer (1944). The filmmakers worked some Navy footage of a launch into the climactic battle scenes.
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Ryan Powers
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Eldard wrote:
keethrax wrote:
Did the main deck catapults get pulled? I know they didn't get used all that much. Hangar (like in the image I posted above) and cross-deck catapults were often removed or not installed in the first place.


The flight deck cats were retained but the hangar catapults were removed from the three Yorktown-class carriers (including Enterprise) in 1942.


That was pretty much what I thought, but couldn't find a decent reference (in the all of 3 minutes I spent looking).

The picture I posted above is from the Hornet. She kept her hangar catapults till the end of the war. And is possibly unique in that regard.
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keethrax wrote:
The picture I posted above is from the Hornet. She kept her hangar catapults till the end of the war. And is possibly unique in that regard.


Must be the Essex-class Hornet (CV 12). CV 8 sank in 1942.
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Eldard wrote:
keethrax wrote:
The picture I posted above is from the Hornet. She kept her hangar catapults till the end of the war. And is possibly unique in that regard.


Must be the Essex-class Hornet (CV 12). CV 8 sank in 1942.


I left that unmentioned since the pic has CV-12 right on it.

Didn't think the class was relevant because I'm not aware of any carrier other than CV-12 that had hangar cats by the end of the war. Though I'd have to do more digging than I am prepared to do to be sure.
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Steve Arthur
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The British invented steam catapults but post-WWII I think...
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Atraxrobustus wrote:
The British invented steam catapults but post-WWII I think...


From the ever reliable wikipeida:

wikipedia wrote:

Although Germans had utilized seaplane tenders using engine steam to launch their Dornier Do J mailplanes on their South Atlantic Air Mail service as early as 1933, the modern steam catapult was a British invention.[5] The use of steam to launch aircraft was suggested by Commander Colin C. Mitchell RNVR,[6] and trials on HMS Perseus, flown by pilots such as Eric "Winkle" Brown, from 1950 showed its effectiveness. Navies introduced steam catapults, capable of launching the heavier jet fighters, in the mid-1950s.


So it sounds like you're pretty much right depending on exactly what differentiates the early German version from a "modern steam catapult."
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keethrax wrote:
I left that unmentioned since the pic has CV-12 right on it.


Doh! gulp
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Here is yet another "applicable usefulness" for the 'catapult' system: CAM Ship cool
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GROGnads wrote:
Here is yet another "applicable usefulness" for the 'catapult' system: CAM Ship cool


Must have been one of the suckiest flying assignments ever. "Here you go, get shot off the bow of a small merchant, hopefully find and destroy the enemy, then ditch and swim back to ship. - oh by the way, your ship is on the next fast convoy to Murmansk"
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As always, you guys are great! Thanks! thumbsup
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Seth Owen
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"In total, there were nine combat launches, eight aircraft and one pilot were lost for eight German aircraft destroyed and one damaged."

Surprisingly effective, if they got to launch.
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GROGnads wrote:
Here is yet another "applicable usefulness" for the 'catapult' system: CAM Ship cool


Thanks for the link, grog.

I was unfamiliar with this system until now. As desperate as the Allies were to protect merchant shipping at that point in the war, and given the combat record of CAM, it appears to have been a rather practical stop-gap measure until longer-range patrol aircraft and CVEs could enter the fray.
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Eldard wrote:
GROGnads wrote:
Here is yet another "applicable usefulness" for the 'catapult' system: CAM Ship cool


Thanks for the link, grog.

I was unfamiliar with this system until now. As desperate as the Allies were to protect merchant shipping at that point in the war, and given the combat record of CAM, it appears to have been a rather practical stop-gap measure until longer-range patrol aircraft and CVEs could enter the fray.


I was familiar with the system to a certain extent. But not the success rate. I had assumed that at best it involved chasing off an enemy long range patrol and a very bad day for the pilot afterwards.
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