Skip to main content

You probably can’t see one without humming “Danger Zone” by Kenny Chesney: a Navy fighter aircraft blasting off a steam catapult aboard an aircraft carrier. However, if you’re a car fan, you’ve probably pondered if a bleeding-edge supercar or hypercar can match the forward momentum of an F-18 leaping off a carrier deck and into the skies above endless seas. So, can any of the fastest cars out there match the acceleration of a jet airplane launching from an aircraft carrier?

A steam catapult will fling an aircraft off of a carrier faster than you think 

A Koenigsegg Gemera supercar parks on a stage.
Koenigsegg Gemera | Koenigsegg

A glance at a 50,000-lb McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 squatting, lunging, and leaping off a steam-powered catapult might not look especially fast. It’s perception-challenging, but that catapult will move an airplane much faster than a modern supercar or hypercar will shove off. 

For instance, some of the fastest-accelerating supercars in the world will smash a sprint to 60 mph in under 2.0 seconds. That’s wicked fast by just about any account. The Rimac Nevera and striking Koenigsegg Gemera will hit 60 mph in 1.74 and 1.9 seconds, respectively. 

Beyond the stocked, multi-million dollar menu of supercars with sub-2.0-second sprints to 60 mph, the swan song 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 will hike up onto its rear tires and hit 60 mph in just 1.66 seconds (on a prepped surface). However, none of these blisteringly fast machines will out-sprint a catapulted aircraft.   

Today’s supercars and hypercars might be fast, but they won’t sprint like a Navy jet

A catapult aboard the flight deck of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier will launch an aircraft to well beyond 150 mph in the time it takes a Tesla Model S Plaid to hit 60. Specifically, any one of a Nimitz carrier’s four steam-powered catapults will fling a 48,000-lb airplane from 0 to 165 mph in just two seconds. The launch subjects pilots to nearly three-and-a-half g forces on take-off.

What’s more, the savage forward momentum is enough to embarrass any of the cutting-edge performance cars that Car and Driver tested to 150 mph. 

Steam catapult (w/ 48,000 lb airplane)168 mph in 2.0 seconds
Porsche 911 Turbo S150 mph in 13.5 seconds
Chevrolet Corvette Z06150 mph in 16.3 seconds
Porsche 911 GT3 RS150 mph in 19.1 seconds

Source: USS Harry S Truman Foundation, Car and Driver