Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet has made its first launch from a “ski jump” ramp. No, it’s not a dare or some weird new winter sport but a demonstration conducted with the US Navy to show the Indian Navy that the Super Hornet can safely operate from its ski-jump-ramp-equipped aircraft carriers.
Invented by the Royal Navy during the Second World War, the ski-jump ramp was further developed as a way to design aircraft carriers with shorter flight decks and make them better able to handle heavier aircraft. The idea is that instead of building up speed or being fired from a catapult to create enough lift for flight, the ski-jump redirects the aircraft into a positive rate of climb. It still isn’t going fast enough for take off even when launched, but the ramp forcing the aircraft upward gives it time to accelerate to the airspeed required for sustained flight in the air before it starts to drop back down.
The modern ski-jump was introduced on Britain’s Invincible-class aircraft carriers in the 1970s, which used Sea Harrier STOVL fighter jets for their air wings, and was retrofitted to the Centaur-class HMS Hermes. Though the Sea Harrier could lift off vertically with a full payload, the fuel expended doing so greatly decreased its range, so the boost of the ramp allowed it to spend more time in the air and then land vertically back on the carrier.