From one of my friends at Patuxent River Naval Air Station:
That's how the Brits launch. They don't have catapults on their carriers.Linked at Wombat-socho's In The Mailbox: 06.25.15 (Late SCOTUScare Gnashing Of Teeth Edition).
Thus, they are buying the STOVL (Short Takeoff Vertical Landing) version of the JSF. Same version our Marines are getting to replace the Harrier.
. . .
The doors for the lift fan and engine aux air intake open, the exhaust nozzle turns down, and the doors to the roll post nozzles open. All when the pilot selects STOVL mode.
After that, just hit the gas and go, the flight control computer senses the ramp, and adjusts the flight control surfaces (including the nozzle angle, and fan shutter angle) appropriate for the speed.
Years ago we tried flinging an F-18 up a ski jump. Without the benefit of the downward thrust, it had to be going quite a bit faster. The loads on the landing gear were not as bad as a carrier landing, but the fatigue life would have been significantly shortened, and that was the end of that experiment.