theese extensions are called Bridle catchers,
The older carriers used a cable and pulley type of catapult a cable ran under the flight deck to a large pulley at the forward part of the catapult .
A cable, with the bridle attached above deck, ran back down the deck to the launch position.
when a plane was launched the bridle was thrown forward, and so to stop damage from repeated strikes to the ships bow and to stop damaging the bridle
itself theese extensions were added, and called (unorigonally bridle extensions :lol
theese bridles would often also strike the rear of a an
aircraft on launch .
like here on HMAS Melbourne,she recieved extensions and improved catapults in the 70's when the Aussies bought A4's for her.
Nowadays carriers use a nose tow arrangement like below
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(picture from and for more on tow nose gear)
I believe that im right in saying that USS Enterprise was the first carrier to use this arrangement, and was the last to have bridle extensions(tow
nose was trialled on her)
As to why they are still on the Carriers in your pictures , i am stumped, maybe they were taken shortly after the Phantoms were retired,the Phantom
being a bridle launch type vs F/a18 nose tow launch.
*although now orangetom mentions it they are/were probably just awaiting removal at a refit as they are noe quite unnessecary
I hope this helps you out Delta boy
damn orangetom beat me to the post
[edit on 27-2-2006 by buckaroo]