So, how do carriers operate today? The newest and biggest aircraft carriers today are part of the Nimitz class carriers. The most resent Nimitz carriers are also known as supercarriers because they don’t run by oil or gas, but are powered by nuclear reactors. With these reactors they can run for 15-20 years without refueling!!
These lines here are where a system called the “catapult” would be on a carrier. Here’s what a catapult looks like.
Carrier planes all have two extendable hooks, one in between the front two wheels and one on the rear. In this case they use the front hook to hold onto the catapult. A catapult is the length of a football field and is used to get planes airborne in a shorter amount of space and time. When a plane is connected to the catapult, the catapult officer begins filling that big container with high-pressure steam. The Jet-Blast-Deflector is raised just before the pilot guns the engines. The plane doesn’t move, though, until the steam is at the right pressure-level and the hold back bar,(The red and white bar in the pic) here, along with the steam are both released at the same time, by the catapult officer.
As a plane is landing its tail hook is suppose to grab onto one of these cables and the moment the wheels touch the deck the pilot puts the plane into full throttle. That way, with the runway angled differently, if the pilot happens to miss the cables he can get airborne again without plowing through everything on deck. When the plane does grab one of the cables, hydraulics under the deck help by absorbing the energy and bringing the plane to a stop without breaking off the tail hook. With this system a plane going 150 mph can be stopped in two seconds.
Once the plane has unhooked from the cable it is either moved to the side and strapped down or put onto one of the giant elevators to be lowered to the hangar deck just below. This is where the aircraft are stored if they need repairs or if they’re not needed on the flight deck.
Carriers even have their own battle groups. A carrier’s typical battle group usually has around 6 support ships and 2 submarines. While the support ships are defending the carrier, all the aircraft can be busy making an attack. This makes for a very effective battle group.
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