There are many kinds of jets on an aircraft carrier. I'm curious how they're moved around below deck. They have to be moved around for storage and to get to and from the large elevator that takes them up to and down from the flight deck.

So how are they moved? Is there some tug? Or something powering their wheels? I really hope they don't have to use their jet engines below deck, as that seems very dangerous to me.

  • $\begingroup$ Using the jet engines would be not only dangerous, but also extremely fuel-demanding (sure more than even a fossil power plant; not to speak a nuclear power plant). There must be something else into it... $\endgroup$
    – yo'
    May 23, 2016 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ @yo' It would absolutely be fuel-demanding and I would be shocked to find out if they actually would use jet engines below deck. But the only other things I have are guesses, just my 2 cents. $\endgroup$
    – DrZ214
    May 23, 2016 at 6:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ They use tugs of all sorts. Here's another example $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    May 23, 2016 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon That's pretty cool but how fast and efficient are those tugs? What is their power source? PS, this could be an answer. $\endgroup$
    – DrZ214
    May 23, 2016 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DrZ214 Well, I only spent a couple of days on HMS Illustrious and saw tugs being used (and occasionally man power) but I don't have enough information to make a proper answer - other than "they use tugs" :) As for power, from memory, the small ones where battery powered and the larger ones, diesel. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    May 23, 2016 at 8:07

2 Answers 2


As Simon pointed out, they use tugs. Obviously the engines are not started below the deck as it would have potentially deadly consequences.

The tugs are either electric or powered by a diesel/JP-5 engine. For example, the USN uses the A/S32A-32 towing tractor (also called spotting dolly SD-2), among others.


Image from zone-five.net

This tug is powered by a diesel engine and controlled using a joystick. In order to be useful in the confines of the deck, the tug can rotate with a zero turning radius. The operation is pretty much similar to the other tugs- the tug is moved so that it lifts up the nosewheel, facilitating the aircraft movement.

The French, on the other hand use remotely controlled mototk tugs on board de Gaulle.


Image from mototok.com

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is what I'm looking for, but questions remain. How does a diesel-powered tug running below deck not asphyxiate or carbon-monoxide poison everyone below deck? Do they all wear gas masks? Also, that smaller one in the last photo...how does such a small thing get enough traction to pull around a fully loaded fighter jet? $\endgroup$
    – DrZ214
    May 23, 2016 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ The hangar bay of an aircraft carrier has four giant doors which are (almost) always open. Plenty of fresh air. $\endgroup$
    – Tyler
    Aug 13, 2016 at 17:50

On the old carriers that had a center deck elevator planes would spin on the deck and get into position to taxi into hangar bay one! You wouldn't believe how loud a "screaming Demon" could be! I was on the Oriskany in 1963 when they were still doing but later that year I was on the Midway and they stopped doing it!


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