Since at least the late 1950s, carrier aircraft have been able to match up evenly against land-based aircraft. While several major innovations made it possible to swap thousands of feet of concrete ashore for a steel deck afloat, the one without which the others would not have mattered was the steam catapult. Despite the leading role that U.S. naval aviation has played, the steam catapult was a British, not an American, invention. Moreover, its advent opened the U.S. Navy to two other British innovations that would prove invaluable.
Armaments & Innovations - The Steam-Powered 'Cat'
By Norman Friedman