An aerosan ( _ru. aэросани, "aerosani", literally 'aerosled') is a type of propeller-powered
snowmobile, running on skis, used for communications, mail deliveries, medical aid, emergency recovery and border patrolling in northern Russia, as well as for recreation. Aerosans were used by the Soviet Red Armyduring the Winter Warand the Second World War.
The first aerosans may have been built by young
Igor Sikorskyin 1909–10, before he built multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. They were very light plywoodvehicles on skis, propelled by old airplane engines and propellers. [Cite web |url=http://www.dself.dsl.pipex.com/MUSEUM/TRANSPORT/propsleigh/propsleigh.htm |title=The Propeller-Driven Sleigh |publisher=SelfSite |date=July 26, 2005 |accessdate=2008-09-11]
Military use of the aerosan goes back to at least the 1920s. During the 1939–40 Winter War against
Finland, some were equipped with a machine-gunring mount on the roof. They could carry four to five men, and tow four more on skis. The aerosans were initially used for transport, liaison, and medical evacuationin deep snow, and mostly used in open country and on frozen lakes and rivers because of their poor hill-climbing ability and limited maneuverability on winding forest roads.
During WWII, aerosans were found to be useful for
reconnaissanceand light raiding in northern areas, thanks to their high mobility in deep snow (25–35 km/h, where many vehicles couldn't move at all). Responsibility for aerosans was transferred to the Soviet Armoured Forces ( GABTU) and orders were submitted for design and fabrication of lightly-armoured versions, protected by ten millimetres of steel plate on front. They were organized into transport or combat battalions of 45 vehicles, in three companies, often employed in co-operation with ski infantry. Troops were usually carried or towed by transport aerosans, while fire support was provided by the heavier machine gun-armed, armoured models. Aerosans were not used for direct assault because of their vulnerability to explosives such as mortar rounds.
The ANT-I through ANT-V were a successful series of aerosans of the 1920s and ’30s, designed by aircraft engineer
Andrei Tupolev. However, there is reason to believe that in 1924 the Soviets obtained plans and specifications for 'air sleighs' from Chester B. Wing, an aviator, automobile dealer and former mayor of St. Ignace, Michigan, U.S.A. He had built practical aerosleds to aid transportation across the ice between St. Ignace and Mackinac Island, and for use by fishermen. The Spring 1943 issue of the magazine 'Science and Mechanics' states that 'from his aerosleds the Russians developed their present battle sleds'.The first military aerosans used in Finland, the KM-5and OSGA-6 (later called NKL-6), were initially built at the Narkomles Factory in Moscow. During WWII, improved NKL-16/41 and NKL-16/42 models were built, and production started at the ZiSand GAZcar factories, and at smaller industries such as the StalingradBekietovskiy Wood Works. In 1941 the armoured NKL-26, designed by M. Andreyev, started production at Narkomles. The following year, Gorki Narkorechflota developed the smaller, unarmoured GAZ-98, or RF-8, powered by a GAZ-M1 truck engine and durable metal propeller. There was also an ASD-400heavy assault sled used in WWII.
Armoured fighting vehicle
* "Science and Mechanics," Spring 1943, p. 49.
* [http://www.dself.dsl.pipex.com/MUSEUM/TRANSPORT/propsleigh/propsleigh.htm The Propeller-Driven Sleigh]
* At the Russian Battlefield:
** [http://www.battlefield.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=216&Itemid=123&lang=en Soviet Combat Snowmobiles]
** [http://www.battlefield.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=215&Itemid=123&lang=en RF-8-GAZ-98 Snowmobile]
** [http://www.battlefield.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=214&Itemid=123&lang=en NKL-26 Snowmobile]
** [http://www.battlefield.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=213&Itemid=123&lang=en ANT-IV Snowmobile]
* [http://www.armor.kiev.ua/Tanks/WWII/sani/ "Boyevyye aerosani"] 'Combat Aerosans' at Brone-Sayt (Russian language)
* [http://www.aerosani.ru/ "Aerosani-amfibiya AS-2"] , a modern amphibious recreational vehicle from aircraft manufacturer Tupolev (Russian language)
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