WI : The Germans developed their own aerosleighs (Aerosani) and snowmobiles before Barbarossa?

Meordal

Kicked
The Germans were flying over the snow :

1595758808207.jpeg


During World War II, British airborne troops sped around Arnhem on air-dropped Welbikes. German Fallshirmjaegers moved heavy weapons around Crete on glider-carried Kettenkrad motorcycle half-tracks. Americans had the Willys MB and Ford GPW, the Jeeps.

One unusual vehicle used in the Red Army were the Aerosan, large sleds powered by a propeller. The first ones were designed in Russia in the early 1900s and were actively used in WWI and then the Russian Civil War. Development of aerosans received great attention due to the geographical features of the country. It quickly became obvious that a vehicle that could quickly and surely move across snow was needed to perform a number of tasks. Aerosani units were given a wide range of objectives, including reconnaissance and evacuation of the wounded.


During WW1, civilian aerosans were found to be useful for reconnaissance and light raiding in northern areas, thanks to their high mobility in deep snow, where many vehicles couldn't move at all. After the war, orders were quickly submitted for design and fabrication of lightly-armoured versions, protected by ten millimetres of steel plate on front. They were meant to be employed in co-operation with ski infantry and to carry or tow troops on "armored" sleds.

1595761188920.jpeg


The ANT-I through ANT-V were a successful series of aerosans of the 1920s and ’30s, designed by aircraft engineer Andrei Tupolev. The ANT-IV was one of three aerosans introduced in 1924. This model, operated by a crew of two, doubled the ANT-III's 50 horsepower with its new Bristol engine, and outperformed the ANT-V's 100-horsepower Fiat engine. In 1930 the ANT-IV began regular trips between Cheboksar and Kanash, carrying mail and priority passengers. The following year the ANT-IVs were overhauled with Soviet-produced M-11 radial aviation engines, allowing them to travel at 28 km/h. In 1934, an ANT-IV was delivered aboard the Smolensk to Ualen where it helped rescue remotely-stranded explorers from the icebreaker Chelyuskin.

The Winter War between Finland and the USSR became a proving grounds of sorts. Soviet heavy tanks were first used in battle here, as well as various novel military engineering solutions. The first military aerosans used in Finland, the KM-5 and 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 ZiS and GAZ car factories, and at smaller industries such as the Stalingrad Bekietovskiy Wood Works.

In 1941 the armoured NKL-26, designed by M. Andreyev, started production at Narkomles. The NKL-26 was an armoured aerosan introduced by the Soviet Union during the Second World War, based on the earlier NKL-6 (OSGA-6). and was armed with a 7.62mm DT machine gun in a ring mount. It was powered by an M-11G aircraft engine. The NKL-16 aerosleigh was t was made of plywood and had a ten-millimetre armour plate on the front only. It has armor-plated turret with a 7.62mm machine gun mounted on four skis. It was propelled by a rear-mounted aircraft type engine and propeller and could transport 4-5 men. The NKL-26 had the same armament but was more powerful and more heavily armored.



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. The RF-8, or GAZ-98, was an aerosan used by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The GAZ-98K was a version with a more powerful GAZ M-11 110-hp aviation engine in place of the standard automotive engine.

1595757079488.jpeg


There was also an ASD-400 heavy assault sled used in WWII.


The aerosleigh [aerosanyi] battalions were officially created in January 1942. The first aerosled units faced the Germans during the battle of Moscow, but they were most active in the winter offensive of 1942-43.

The battle of Moscow was the first time that the aerosanies were used in significant numbers as combat vehicles, harassing the retreating units or raiding supply lines and lightly defended outposts. Utilizing their speed and high mobility across snow-covered road-less terrain, the aerosleds suddenly attacked an enemy caught off guard. They conducted short, but frequent raids from various directions simultaneously, which influenced the enemy morale since there was a constant danger of an aerosan raiding party coming out of the hypnotic whiteness of the snowy plains. This gave an overwhelming advantage to the Soviets against the Germans, since they could operate off roads that were controlled by the enemy, in a partisan-like fashion. Thus, a number of successful raids into the enemy’s rear succeeded in destroying his rear area installations and capturing ammunition and equipment.

Those units were considered by the Stavka to be a type of mechanized force, there were 48 aerosleigh battalions in the February 1943 force structure and 57 in July 1943. The aerosleigh battalion consisted of a headquarters and supply company with 10 cargo sleds and 3 combat companies with 10 aerosleighs each. The company consisted of three platoons with three sleighs each and a tenth command sled. The overall strength of the battalion was about 100 men with about 45 NKL-16 or NKL-26 aerosleighs.

Each NKL-26 aerosan was capable of carrying up to 500 kg of fuel and ammunition. Aerosani could be mounted with a machine gun, a medium mortar or a small caliber anti-tank gun and could carry four soldiers riding outside the vehicle on their skis or towed behind.

Those units were considered by the Stavka to be a type of mechanized force, there were 48 aerosleigh battalions in the February 1943 force structure and 57 in July 1943. The aerosleigh battalion consisted of a headquarters and supply company with 10 cargo sleds and 3 combat companies with 10 aerosleighs each. The company consisted of three platoons with three sleighs each and a tenth command sled. The overall strength of the battalion was about 100 men with about 45 NKL-16 or NKL-26 aerosleighs.

Each NKL-26 aerosan was capable of carrying up to 500 kg of fuel and ammunition. Aerosani could be mounted with a machine gun, a medium mortar or a small caliber anti-tank gun and could carry four soldiers riding outside the vehicle on their skis or towed behind. They had an operational range of 250 km and a maximum speed of 50 km/h (31mph).

Aerosleigh battalions were used for winter raids, to combat enemy ski troops, to transport supplies, and in operations across difficult terrain in snow conditions, often in conjunction with additional ski battalions and brigades or lighter aerosani.



The Germans were quite impressed by the aero-sleds they encountered, and attempted to reverse engineer or otherwise build their own versions, for example, the Tatra V 855 (only two prototypes, built in 1942).


I may add that two civilian Finnish transport Aerosleds were bought by the Germans in 1929 to be used in Finland with the 1930 Wegener Expedition (similar to the first image). Ironically, the light Aerosani were powered by BMW engines. In 1940, the Soviet Union acquired the design and production techniques for BMW R71 motorcycles and sidecars.


POD :

As we all know, the Kama tank school (German: Panzerschule Kama) was a secret training school for tank commanders operated by the German Reichswehr near Kazan, Soviet Union. It operated from 1929 to 1933. The school was established in order to allow the German military to circumvent the military restrictions on tank research spelled out in the Treaty of Versailles. Apart from Kama, for the same reason Germany also operated the Lipetsk fighter-pilot school (1926–33) and a gas warfare facility, Gas-Testgelände Tomka (1928–31).

After its opening, the new school accommodated up to a dozen German officers at a time, training there for up to two years. Apart from training officers and a few drivers, the school served German companies like Krupp, Daimler, and Rheinmetall as a development ground for new tank designs. Technicians worked on the designs that later became the early Panzerkampfwagen I and II.

Many of the officers training, instructing or visiting Kama later became high-ranking commanders in the Wehrmacht or its Panzerwaffe, among them Ernst Volckheim, Werner von Blomberg, Walter Model, Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, Heinz Guderian and Josef Harpe. However claims about training of Guderian are contested: allegedly, he visited Kama only once, for the Inspectorate of Motorized Troops under Oswald Lutz.

The POD is here, Heinz Guderian does visit Kama Tank school during winter. He is invited to attend maneuvers of Soviet troops, especially Ski Soldiers, that included a few ANT-IV aeorosani. Bewildered by those strange vehicles, Guderian takes quick notes about them and talks to the few Soviet engineers present at this impromptu demonstration.

1595765244207.jpeg


Returning from Soviet Union, Guderian actively advocates the development of a logistics system adapted to the Russian terrain and is finally able to convince Lutz. Together, they discuss the concept of German Motorschlittengeräte vehicles and their use to improve the Reichswehr logistics and mobility. ITTL, two chapter of Achtung Panzer focus on logistics in difficult terrains (desert, snow, mud and mountain warfare) and the concept of Motorschlittengeräte respectively.

In 1937, the Reichswehr and German companies thus begin developing Motorschlittengeräte vehicles, while seriously thinking about the snow and logistically planning a Russian campaign. During the war, the German Motorschlittengeräte were mainly restricted to logistics, wounded evacuation and patrols due to their vulnerability, even if they dramatically increased infantry mobility during a few raids laid by former cavalry officers.

WI : The Germans developed their own aerosani (Motorschlittengeräte) before Barbarossa using Finnish models or after spying on the Soviets?
 
Last edited:
Just say, those things are incredibly vulnerable to MG fire.
Aim for the skies or the engine.
Also, the propeller can be dangerous if it accidentally comes loose.

The Germans experiment with something similar during the interwar period, a train powered by a propeller.
it was cancelled because it was too dangerous.
 
The Germans were flying over the snow :

View attachment 569600

snip

I may add that two civilian Finnish transport Aerosleds were bought by the Germans in 1929 to be used in Finland with the 1930 Wegener Expedition (first image). Ironically, the light Aerosani were powered by BMW engines. In 1940, the Soviet Union acquired the design and production techniques for BMW R71 motorcycles and sidecars.
To nitpick, the first image is actually a Finnish military aerosled with Finnish markings during the Continuation War, not one of the sleds sold to be used by the Wegener Expedition. It is a very similar one, though, as the great majority of the Finnish aerosleds were made by the Finnish Air Force Aircraft Factory (I.V.L) in Helsinki. The Finns used both domestic and captured Soviet aerosleds during the Continuation War.

You can find a good write-up about the Finnish aerosleds by our own @CanKiwi here.
 
These things aren't going to be of any use until the ground freezes and the snow falls, far too late to impact Barbarossa. And of course there's the same old question, where are the resources coming from to build these?
 
These things aren't going to be of any use until the ground freezes and the snow falls, far too late to impact Barbarossa. And of course there's the same old question, where are the resources coming from to build these?
And to run them. In particular, a propeller driven land vehicle is a fuel hog, which the Soviets could afford, and the Germans couldn't.
The Germans had a heck of a time getting fuel for their Panzers forward. Have fun getting all the extra fuel for fuel guzzling things like this.
 
In addition, they weren't needed at all, according to the invasion plan. The Soviets were supposed to have surrendered before they could have been of use.
 
Top