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A catapult is a mechanical device, which may used stored muscle energy, but more commonly motor coupled to the moving part by hydraulics, steam, or an electric motor, that translates the stored energy into a strong linear force.
The first catapults were medieval weapons, used to throw spears or rocks toward fortifications. Bows and crossbows can be considered as individual catapults.
One of the most spectacular modern uses of the catapult is in launching aircraft from aircraft carriers, using the CATOBAR technique.