An aerosan (Russian: 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 Army during the Winter War and the Second World War.
The first aerosans may have been built by young Igor Sikorsky in 1909–10, before he built multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. They were very light plywood vehicles on skis, propelled by old airplane engines and propellers.
During WWII, aerosans were found to be useful for reconnaissance and 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. The first military aerosans used in
The ANT-IV in 1924 was the first metal-bodied aerosan
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
The NKL-26 armoured aerosan of World War Two
The NKL-26 was an armoured aerosan introduced by the
The RF-8 was a smaller WWII model, powered by an inexpensive automotive engine
The RF-8, or GAZ-98, was an aerosan used by the