:"JATO may also refer to the group Jews Against the Occupation. JATO Dynamics, the automotive market intelligence worldwide company. Rato was the Japanese name of Luodong, Taiwan."

JATO is an acronym for Jet-fuel Assisted Take Off. The term is used interchangeably with the (more specific) term RATO, for "Rocket-Assisted Take Off". It is a system for helping overloaded planes into the air by providing additional thrust in the form of small rockets. See also assisted take off.

Early experiments

Early experiments with using to boost gliders into the air were conducted in Germany in the 1920s (Lippisch Ente), but practical JATO systems were firstFact|date=August 2007 introduced by the RAF early in World War II. These used fairly large solid fuel rockets to shoot planes (typically the Hawker Hurricane) off a small ramp fitted to the fronts of merchant ships, known in service as CAM ships, in order to provide some cover against German 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. However, the system was only employed eight times in service.

The "Luftwaffe" also used the technique in order to help their small bombers, and the enormous Gigant, Messerschmitt Me 321 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 smaller 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 breaking down T-Stoff, essentially almost pure hydrogen peroxide. A parachute 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. Other German experiments with JATO were aimed at assisting the launch of interceptor aircraft such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 so that they could reach enemy bomber formations sooner.

In early 1939, the United States National Academy of Sciences provided $1,000 to Theodore von Kármán and the Rocket Research Group at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory to research rocket-assisted take-off of aircraft. This JATO research was the first rocket research to receive financial U.S. government. [cite web |url=http://www.olats.org/OLATS/pionniers/memoir1.shtml |title=Memoir on the GALCIT Rocket Research Project |last=Malina |first=Frank J. |publisher=l'Observatoire Leonardo pour les Arts et les Techno-Sciences |date=1967] [cite web |url=http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4406/chap2.html |title=Orders of Magnitude - A History of the NACA and NASA, 1915-1990, Ch. 2 |publisher=NASA |date=1989]


After World War II JATO became particularly common owing to the low slow-speed thrust of then-current jet engines 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" conditions.

Two similar zero-length launch experiment programs were carried out by both the US Air Force in the late 1950s with a modified Republic F-84, designated the EF-84G, and by the Soviet VVS in the USSR at around the same time, with a modified MiG-19 fighter, designated SM-30, launched from a special launcher, using a nearly identical solid fueled rocket booster design to that of the EF-84G, which used the MGM-1 Matador cruise missile's solid fuel booster.

Operation Credible Sport 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.

In all of these cases the term "jet" is correct but the system is more accurately called "RATO". However "JATO" remains the most popular version, apparently due to its US origin.

JATO urban legend

The JATO Rocket Car is a famous urban legend 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; however it appears to be apocryphal, with no basis in fact. The legend was tested in 2003 on the Discovery Channel show "MythBusters". They 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.



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