The Short Sturgeon was initially developed to meet the S11/43 requirement calling for a twin engine naval reconnaissance aircraft which could also operate as a torpedo bomber. Having submitted their design in good time, Shorts received an order for three prototypes on 19th October 1943. Two x F52 cameras and a single F24 were to be carried for the reconnaissance role with either one 1,000 lb bomb or 2 x 500 lb bombs in a bomb bay and 16 x 60 lb rockets carried under the wings meeting the bomber requirement. Armament was to include 2 x .5 in Browning machine guns mounted in the nose.
Powered by 2 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 140 V12 engines of 2,080 hp, each fitted with contra-rotating Rotol propellers, the first prototype Sturgeon made its maiden flight on 7th June 1946. It was around this time that the end of the Second World War brought cancellation of the carriers from which the aircraft was intended to operate and the design was reconfigured to provide a target tug. The nose was lengthened and deepened to accommodate a manned camera position and winch system and the crew reduced to a pilot and all-purpose ‘observer’ acting as navigator and wireless/camera/target operator.
The Sturgeon entered Fleet Air Arm service in 1951. It was operated by No 728 Naval Air Squadron at Hal Far, Malta, for most of its life until being withdrawn in 1959 and also equipped No 771 NAS at Royal Naval Air Station Ford from 1950 to 1954. In addition to its primary role of towing targets for ground-to-air and air-to-air firing practice, it was used for photographic marking and radar calibration – and as a vehicle for service trials with No 703 NAS at Ford.
A total of 28 Short Sturgeons were built and there are no known survivors.