Or the Integrated Catapult Control System, commonly referred to as the “Bubble”.


Pacific Ocean (March 13, 2006) – An F/A-18D Hornet assigned to the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron One Two Five (VFA-125) launches from the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Mark J. Rebilas (RELEASED)

Continuing with our informal tour of an Aircraft Carrier (begun with the Jet Engine Test Cell of a few days ago), the ICCS is where catapult officers run the aircraft catapult sequence/system.

Air conditioned with comfortable (relatively) seats, it is the ideal place to monitor, from deck level, all the required checks and double-checks that need to be done before the “LAUNCH” button is pushed and you send a 42,000 Hornet flying.

I still remember the litany that we repeated before every launch, as the sequence began:

“Taking tension….good stroke, good hook. Flaps, slats, panels, pins…man’s out, thumbs up…winds are….27 knots. Crosswinds are good. Thumb’s up, final checkers. Looking for burner….good burner. Scannin’ (working a quick scan backwards from the bow to make sure everything is ok for launch, looking at the catapult track, the deck crew and their thumb’s ups, the aircraft, the pilot, the final checkers behind the aircraft, the Island (with its green launch light), back to the aircraft, and lastly at the pilot), there’s the salute (from the pilot, signifying he’s all set to go flying), “520 and clear’ comes from the Bubble Petty Officer, facing the opposite direction to me, the bow)…”Roger, 520 and clear” (the “520” meaning we had 520 psi of steam available)…with the last word being mine, “Launching”

On IKE when I was cat officer we tried to get out of the bubble as often as we could so we could do the traditional naval aviation cat officer aircraft launch ballet (sans tutus). It was always so much more fun when you were directing the evolution up on the deck, amidst the noise and heat and exhaust and aircraft – and when it was raining and cold, you scored a bunch of points with the enlisted flight deck guys who had to be out in that mess all the time, anyhow.

pinch cat o.jpg

—Posted by Pinch


  1. VFA-125 is the west coast F/A-18 RAG, the training squadron, based in Lemoore, CA – hence the Navy 2-seat F/A-18D (the Marines are the only US service that use the F/A-18D as a front-line tactical-strike aircraft). Don’t read too much into the camo paint job, since it is not used for combat missions.

  2. Shipmate, I wish I could’ve had the view to the front you guys did, but mine was rather restricted by the side window during launch (S-3A). I could always loosen the harness and lean over during flight, but to be honest, I really didn’t want to watch the landing that much….. Still and all, those were the heady days of youth, when I was young and immortal and we were always ready to go toe-to-toe with the Russkies:) Respects, AW1 Tim