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Short S38 Sturgeon

Twin-Seat, Twin-Engine Target Tug Aircraft

The Short Sturgeon began as a war-time torpedo bomber but saw a bulk of its service days as a target tug for the British Royal Navy.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 6/4/2018
The Short S.38 Sturgeon was born through a World War 2 (1939-1945) British naval requirement under Specification S.6/43 for a carrier-based, high-speed torpedo bomber intended for service in the Pacific Theater. However, with the end of the war in August of 1945, the requirement was no longer pressing which forced an evolution of the design into Specification S.11/43. A prototype by Short Brothers was first flown on June 7th, 1946 and the Sturgeon (Short Brothers S.38) was adopted by the Fleet Air Arm across 28 examples. Despite its original torpedo bomber design, the type eventually served a bulk of its career as a useful target tug - a rather inglorious role for any military aircraft.

Outwardly, the original Sturgeon offering utilized a conventional twin-engined configuration with a centralized fuselage tapered at both ends. The cockpit was fitted well-forward in the design at the main wing spar. The wings were high-mounted along the fuselage sides with each mounting a leading edge engine nacelle. The nacelles protruded well-forward to block some of the vision out of the cockpit though providing clear views of the engines for the pilot in the event of trouble. The empennage included a single vertical tail fin and the requisite horizontal planes. Power (for the TT.3 tug) was through 2 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 140 series, V12 liquid-cooled inline piston engines developing 2,080 horsepower each. This provided the airframe with a maximum speed of 366 miles per hour, a cruise speed of 312 miles per hour and a service ceiling of 35,200 feet.

There proved a few notable variants in the Sturgeon production line leading with the Sturgeon S.1. This was the carrier-based strike platform which saw its original 30-strong order cancelled with the end of the war (two-prototypes completed with a third representing the modified TT.2). The initial target tug form to then emerge was the Sturgeon TT.2 which appeared as two prototypes leading to 23 production forms following - really the definitive Sturgeon production form. The tug models differed from the original torpedo bomber design in their elongated, revised nose assemblies. The TT.3 was nothing more than a refined target tug platform of which five appeared from existing TT.2 frames. SB.3 proved a short-lived prototype for an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) platform which sported a noticeable chin fairing housing specialized equipment for the role. Two prototypes were ordered and the original airframe flew on August 12th, 1950. The type was never adopted.

The Sturgeon operated with the Fleet Air Arm branch of the Royal Navy through groups 703 NAS, 728 NAS and 771 NAS.


Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 28 Units ] :
Short Brothers - UK
National flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom (retired)
- Ground Attack
- Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
- Anti-Ship
44.95 ft (13.7 m)
59.81 ft (18.23 m)
132.55 ft (40.4 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Short S39 Sturgeon TT.3 production model)
Empty Weight:
16,976 lb (7,700 kg)
21,716 lb (9,850 kg)
(Diff: +4,740lb)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Short S39 Sturgeon TT.3 production model)
2 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 140 V12 liquid-cooled inline piston engines developing 2,080 horsepower each.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Short S39 Sturgeon TT.3 production model)
Maximum Speed:
367 mph (590 kph; 319 kts)
Service Ceiling:
35,105 feet (10,700 m; 6.65 miles)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Short S39 Sturgeon TT.3 production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
None. Bomber that would have carried torpedoes was cancelled with the end of World War 2.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Short S39 Sturgeon TT.3 production model)
Sturgeon S.1 - Original torpedo bomber form cancelled with end of war; two prototypes completed.
Sturgeon TT.2 - Target Tug form; 23 examples completed; two prototypes.
Sturgeon TT.3 (SB.9) - Refined TT.2 target tug form; five converted from TT.2 models.
SB.3 - Proposed anti-submarine warfare platform; two prototypes completed; never adopted.

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