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"Propeller-Driven Sleds" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on Russian propeller-driven sleds was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 12, November 19, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The severity of the Russian winter, with its heavy snowfalls, creates serious transportation problems. This is particularly true in northern Russia, where lack of roads formerly made dog- or reindeer-drawn sleds necessary for transport. Soviet technical skill and ingenuity, however, have successfully coped with the problem by developing mechanized sleds, which have good traction both on hard-packed snow and soft new snow.

The most satisfactory and efficient type of mechanized sled for winter transport has been found to be the aero-sled, powered by an airplane-type engine and mounted on either three or four skis.

[Russian Propeller-driven Sleds]

The accompanying sketch shows a general view of the Soviet NKL-16 aero-sled with an M-11 motor. All accepted types of aero-sleds have a closed streamlined cabin (1) which transports six to eight persons plus freight, depending on the horsepower of the motor and design of the sled. The cabin is mounted on shock absorbers (2), which are connected to the three (or four) skis. The motor (4) is generally mounted in the rear with the pusher-type propeller (3) and a guard (6). The skis are connected to the body also by means of universal-joint semiaxles (7) and "unloading" connecting rods (8).

This three-rod type of mounting of the skis insures proper shock absorption and fixes the skis rigidly in relation to the body of the sled. A turn of the steering wheel (9) causes the front ski to turn. In the four-ski-type aero-sleds of the latest design, the two rear skis glide in the tracks made by the front skis. The brakes are applied by pressure on a foot pedal which causes 1 to 1 1/2-inch metal rods to protrude from the bottom of the skis and engage in the snow. An air-cooled motor in aero-sleds eliminates radiator and water complications in the cylinder sleeves and lends to light design.

The following discussion of various aspects of the problem of transport operations by aero-sled is taken from a recent issue of a Soviet trade magazine.

"Aero-sleds must satisfy certain technical requirements. For example, the supporting surface of the skis must completely safeguard the sled from falling through the snow or getting stuck in it. Experience in the U.S.S.R has proved that the load weight of the sled while in movement must not exceed 1,200 to 1,350 pounds per square yard of supporting surface. The total weight of the loaded sled must not exceed 33 pounds per engine horsepower.

"Other essentials include durability of construction, using inexpensive, plentiful materials. The driver and crew must be protected from headwinds and must be able to observe the road to the front and on both sides. Brakes are needed to assure safe descent on steep inclines, especially on slippery and rolled roads. The propeller must be equipped with some form of guard to prevent accidents.

"It may be said that the essential qualities of aero-sleds are: simplicity of manufacture, low cost, ease of repair, and good driving power.

"The improvement of travel qualities of aero-sleds can be accomplished by: reducing the weight of the sled by lighter construction, reducing the load capacity (a serious disadvantage), or increasing the traction power of the propeller. The latter may be accomplished by improving the design of the propeller or using a motor of greater power. It may be considered that the present models of aero-sleds yield roughly a power effort of the propeller equivalent to 6 to 6.5 pounds per motor horsepower.

"Although the average speed in actual work is lower, it is possible to drive aero-sleds at a speed of 20 to 30 mph, depending on the snow surface and the experience of the driver.

"As the Soviet Union lacks winter roads, the opportunities for using aero-sled transportation are very numerous. For that reason, in spite of the favorable achievements in design and efficiency for use over even rough snow and ice, many improvements can yet be made. A switch to the use of heavier fuel, as well as to simple and inexpensive motors and steel propeller should be combined with further perfection of body design and of moving parts."

On the basis of sketches of aero-sleds which have appeared recently in the Soviet press, it seems probable that the Russians are employing aero-sleds as combat vehicles, both as a reconnaissance car mounting a heavy machine gun, and as an armored fighting vehicle with a sizable-caliber gun mounted in a revolving turret. No details, however, are available on this aspect of the employment of aero-sleds.


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