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JATO

JATO

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JATO is an acronym for jet-fuel assisted take off. It is a system for helping overloaded aircraft into the air by providing additional thrust in the form of small rocket
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

s.

The term is used interchangeably with the (more specific) term RATO, for Rocket-Assisted Take Off (or, in RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 parlance, RATOG for Rocket-Assisted Take Off Gear).

Early experiments and World War II


Early experiments using rockets to boost gliders
Glider aircraft
Glider aircraft are heavier-than-air craft that are supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against their lifting surfaces, and whose free flight does not depend on an engine. Mostly these types of aircraft are intended for routine operation without engines, though engine failure can...

 into the air were conducted in Germany in the 1920s (Lippisch Ente), and later both the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 introduced such systems in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The British system used fairly large solid fuel rockets to shoot planes (typically the Hawker Hurricane
Hawker Hurricane
The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force...

) off a small ramp fitted to the fronts of merchant ships, known in service as Catapult armed merchantmen (or CAM Ships)
CAM ship
CAM ships were World War II-era British merchant ships used in convoys as an emergency stop-gap until sufficient escort carriers became available. CAM is an acronym for catapult aircraft merchantman. A CAM ship was equipped with a rocket-propelled catapult launching a single Hawker Sea Hurricane,...

, in order to provide some cover against German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 reconnaissance planes. After firing, the rocket was released from the back of the plane to fall into the water and sink. The task done, the pilot would fly to friendly territory if possible or parachute from the plane, hopefully to be picked up by one of the escort vessels. Over two years the system was only employed nine times to attack German aircraft with 8 kills recorded for the loss of a single pilot.
The Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

also used the technique in order to help their small bombers, and the enormous Gigant, Messerschmitt Me 321
Messerschmitt Me 321
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Dabrowski, Hans-Peter. Messerschmitt Me 321/323: The Luftwaffe's "Giants" in World War II. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2001. ISBN 0-7643-1442-4....

 glider, conceived in 1940 for the invasion of Britain, and used to supply the Russian front which also had air tow assistance from up to three bombers, into the air with loads that would have made the takeoff run too long otherwise. This became especially important late in the war when the lengths of usable runways were severely curtailed due to the results of Allied bombing. Their system typically used Walter HWK 500 Starthilfe ("start-help") rocket engines driven by chemical decomposition of "T-Stoff
T-Stoff
T-Stoff was the oxidizer part of a bipropellant rocket fuel combination used in Germany during World War II. It is a stabilized high test peroxide...

", essentially almost pure hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is the simplest peroxide and an oxidizer. Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. In dilute solution, it appears colorless. With its oxidizing properties, hydrogen peroxide is often used as a bleach or cleaning agent...

. A parachute
Parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

 pack at the front of the motor was used to slow its fall after being released from the plane, so the system could be re-used. First experiments were held in 1937 on an Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 111
The Heinkel He 111 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter in the early 1930s in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Often described as a "Wolf in sheep's clothing", it masqueraded as a transport aircraft, but its purpose was to provide the Luftwaffe with a fast medium...

, piloted by test-pilot Erich Warsitz
Erich Warsitz
Erich Warsitz was a German test pilot of the 1930s. He held the rank of Flight-Captain in the Luftwaffe and was selected by the Reich Air Ministry as chief test pilot at Peenemünde West...

 at Neuhardenberg
Neuhardenberg
Neuhardenberg is a municipality in the district Märkisch-Oderland, in Brandenburg, Germany. It is the site of Neuhardenberg Palace, residence of the Prussian statesman Prince Karl August von Hardenberg. The municipal area comprises the villages of Altfriedland, Quappendorf and Wulkow...

, a large field about 70 kilometres east of Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, listed as a reserve airfield in the event of war. Other German experiments with JATO were aimed at assisting the launch of interceptor aircraft such as the Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262
The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944...

C, as the Heimatschützer special versions, usually fitted with either a version of the Walter HWK 109-509
Walter HWK 109-509
-See also:-Bibliography:*Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London. Studio Editions Ltd, 1989. ISBN 0-517-67964-7-External links:*...

 liquid fuelled rocket engine from the Me 163 Komet program either in the extreme rear of the fuselage or semi-"podded" beneath it just behind the wing's trailing edge, to assist its Junkers Jumo 004
Junkers Jumo 004
The Jumo 004 was the world's first turbojet engine in production and operational use, and the first successful axial compressor jet engine ever built. Some 8,000 units were manufactured by Junkers in Germany during late World War II and powered the operational Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter,...

 turbojets, or a pair of specially rocket-boosted BMW 003R combination jet-rocket powerplants in place of the Jumo 004s, so that the Me 262C Heimatschützer interceptors could reach enemy bomber formations sooner. Two prototypes of the Heimatschützer versions of the Me 262 were built and test flown, of the three designs proposed.

In early 1939, the United States National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 provided $1,000 to Theodore von Kármán
Theodore von Karman
Theodore von Kármán was a Hungarian-American mathematician, aerospace engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization...

 and the Rocket Research Group at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory
Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory
The Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology , was a research institute created in 1926, at first specializing in aeronautics research. In 1930, Hungarian scientist Theodore von Kármán accepted the directorship of the lab and emigrated to the United States. Under...

 to research rocket-assisted take-off of aircraft. This JATO research was the first rocket research to receive financial assistance from the U.S. government.

Post WWII



After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 JATO became particularly common owing to the low slow-speed thrust of then-current jet engine
Jet engine
A jet engine is a reaction engine that discharges a fast moving jet to generate thrust by jet propulsion and in accordance with Newton's laws of motion. This broad definition of jet engines includes turbojets, turbofans, rockets, ramjets, pulse jets...

s or for assisting heavy aircraft; the prop-engined Avro Shackelton used Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojets for takeoff.
As the take-off thrust of jet engines has grown, JATO has fallen from favor. It is still used, however, when heavily-laden aircraft need to take off from short runways or when operating in "high and hot
Hot and high
In aviation, hot and high is a condition of low air density due to high ambient temperature and high airport elevation. Air density decreases with increasing temperature and altitude. Lower air density reduces the amount of lift generated by the wings or the rotors of an aircraft, which may hamper...

" conditions.

Two similar zero-length launch experimental programs were carried out by the US Air Force and by the Soviet VVS
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

 at around the same time in the late 1950s. The US Air Force used a modified Republic F-84, designated EF-84G, which used the MGM-1 Matador
MGM-1 Matador
The Martin MGM-1 Matador was the first operational surface-to-surface cruise missile built by the United States. It was similar in concept to the German V-1, but the Matador included a radio link that allowed in-flight course corrections. This allowed accuracy to be maintained over greatly extended...

 cruise missile's solid fuel booster. The Soviet VVS used a modified MiG-19 fighter, designated SM-30, launched from a special launcher, and using a nearly identical solid fueled rocket booster design to that of the EF-84G. The F-100
F-100 Super Sabre
The North American F-100 Super Sabre was a supersonic jet fighter aircraft that served with the United States Air Force from 1954 to 1971 and with the Air National Guard until 1979. The first of the Century Series collection of USAF jet fighters, it was the first USAF fighter capable of...

 and F-104
F-104 Starfighter
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is a single-engine, high-performance, supersonic interceptor aircraft originally developed for the United States Air Force by Lockheed. One of the Century Series of aircraft, it served with the USAF from 1958 until 1969, and continued with Air National Guard units...

 were also used for zero-length launch experiments.

Operation Credible Sport
Operation Credible Sport
Operation Credible Sport was a joint project of the United States military in the second half of 1980 to prepare for a second rescue attempt of the hostages held in Iran using a Lockheed C-130 Hercules airlifter modified with rocket engines...

 was a United States military operation plan in late 1980 to rescue hostages held by Iran using C-130 cargo planes modified with rocket engines to enable a very short take off and landing. The plan was canceled after an accident during the test landing when JATO units designed to cushion the landing fired too soon, causing the aircraft to crash-land.

Urban legend


The JATO Rocket Car
JATO Rocket Car
The account of the JATO Rocket Car was one of the original Darwin Awards winners: a man who supposedly met his death in a spectacular manner after mounting a rocket engine on a common automobile. It was originally circulated as a forwarded email....

 is an urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

 that relates the story of a car equipped with JATO units that is later found smashed into a mountainside. This story is often given as an example of a Darwin Award
Darwin Awards
The Darwin Awards are a tongue-in-cheek honor, created by Wendy Northcutt to recognize individuals who contribute to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool through putting themselves in life-threatening situations...

; however it appears to be apocryphal, with no basis in fact. The legend has been examined twice on the Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is an American satellite and cable specialty channel , founded by John Hendricks and distributed by Discovery Communications. It is a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav...

 show MythBusters
MythBusters
MythBusters is a science entertainment TV program created and produced by Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is screened by numerous international broadcasters, including Discovery Channel Australia, Discovery Channel Latin America, Discovery Channel Canada, Quest...

. For the first attempt, in a 2003 pilot episode, the crew replicated the scene and the thrust of the JATO with some commercially-available amateur rocket motors. The car did go very fast, outrunning the chase helicopter, but nowhere near the 300 mph (500 km/h) reported in the original story, and failed to become airborne. The myth was revisited in 2007, using a different configuration of rockets in an attempt to make the car fly; however, it exploded before reaching the end of its launch ramp.

External links