As “runways at sea,” modern aircraft carriers have a flat-top deck design that serves as a flight deck for the launch and recovery of aircraft. Aircraft are launched in a forward direction, into the wind, and recovered from astern.
Carriers steam at speed, for example up to 35 knots (65 km/h), into the wind during flight deck operations in order to increase the wind over the deck to exceed a safe minimum.
This increase in effective wind speed provides a higher launch airspeed for aircraft at the end of the catapult stroke or ski-jump, plus it makes recovery safer by reducing the difference between the relative speeds of the aircraft and ship.
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