Trumpeter 1/35 RF-8/GAZ- 98 Aerosan

KIT #: 02322
PRICE: $11.00 SRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Bill Koppos
NOTES: Simplified but fun

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 190910, before he built multi-engine airplanes and helicopters. They were very light plywood vehicles on skis, propelled by old airplane engines and propellers. Military use of the aerosani goes back to at least the 1920s. During the 193940 Winter War against Finland, some were equipped with a machine-gun ring mount on the roof. They could carry four to five men, and tow four more on skis. The aerosanis were initially used for transport, liaison, and medical evacuation in 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 reconnaissance and light raiding in northern areas, thanks to their high mobility in deep snow (2535 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 sled." The claim though has to be viewed in the context of a picture of an Igor Sikorsky machine in Kiev pre-WWI.

The first military aerosanis 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 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-400 heavy assault sled used in WWII.

I first learned of the existence of this contraption when on my Wednesday wargame night at my buddy's house he trotted out a unit of weird looking ski sleds, for use in the upcoming Russian front scenario. My question of "WTF is that?" was answered by "It's an Aerosan of course!" Learn something new every day. I liked it immediately, and when Trumpeter released this new 1/35 scale kit of the 2 major models, I grabbed the first one I could get, which was the low-riding RF-8 version.

The kit gives you 3 sprues of good Trumpeter plastic, an acetate sheet with punch-out windscreen and headlight lens, and a small decal sheet for one sloganed machine. An etched fret provides 2 brass gunsights for your main battery. Picture type Instruction sheet and color painting complete things. Let's propel ourselves forward.


First one assembles the inline engine, a detailed little thing that will be unfortunately well hidden when installed. This kit is aircraft-like in that the interior has to be painted before the "fuselage" is closed up. The instructions call for a Khaki base, and this was done with a coat of Humbrol # 26 Khaki. A word to the wise here- I usually cut strips of masking tape and tape off the join lines, as I hate scraping paint before glueing. On this one, the tape would NOT stick even though I wiped the surfaces down with alcohol as I usually do. I had to resort to the old soap and water wash, and now the tape stuck. Bottom line is the mold release agent on this one is really strong, so give the sprues a good washing first.

After the Khaki, I washed the raised firring strip detail with black sludge for shadows, and drybrushed the raised areas with some Buff for highlites and to give a plywood effect. This was done on the seats also. I sprayed the engine and insides of the upper/rear engine area dark grey. Now, not forgetting our engine mounts, the body was closed up, and the seats glued in. the rear seat required some trimming on the sides to get her down; test-fit first. Engine installation follows, then the radiator. Skis are next, the fit of the springs and rods being really spot on, as all other fit has been so far. The skis themselves are a bit loose, I assembled them all, then applied cement to the pivots all at once, laying the model on a flat surface, and putting a metal ruler against the sides to line them up. I'm pretty sure these would never be perfectly aligned in reality, the steering probably being something like a Flexible Flyer sled, but I don't want to hear it from any nit-pickers.

Now the nicely molded propeller guards were carefully cut off the prues and trimmed up, lining the lower ones to the tops are the only tricky bit of assembly in the kit. An instrument panel with for empty gauges is given you. I painted the gauge areas white enamel , let them dry, gave it an overall acrylic flat black coat, and etched some needles in with a scriber. then the gauges got a glosscoat, for the glass. I left the steering wheel off to ease masking. Here we get into aircraft territory again as there is an interior to mask off, and then the engine. I stuffed tissue into the "cockpits", and covered over with tape. Onward! To the paint shop!

My winter white paint jobs start off with Black, of course. A complete coat of flat black, Testor's little glass jar flat. Next from the Testor's little jar is Flat White, leaving sreaks and hints of the black undercoat showing randomly, but mostly on the lower areas. An Hour later, I applied aseveral coats of Testor's Metallizer Sealer (No, this is not a Testor's ad) as a prep for decals and "sludging". 20 minutes later the decals were applied, these being 3 red stars and 2 side slogans. At first I thought I would have trouble, but they slowly reacted to the Solvaset decal solution, when the wrinkles went away I carefully rolled them with a damp Q-tip, and they conformed the way I wanted.

Now the jar of black acrylic/water/soap based "sludge" was bought out, and some was brushed lightly along the rivet lines, and hatch panels, steering and pivoting links and engine area, anywhere we need oil or dirt. Excess was removed from the rivet lines with an old dry short bristled brush, just leaving a hint of shadow. Sometimes this needs redoing several times to get right. To enter or exit this thang, the crew was going to have to tread upon the skis, so these were dirtied up too, scratched up with dark grey, and muddied up with a Tamiya weathering stick. Now another glosscoat seals everything in. I was going to flatcoat it too, but it looked alright to me as it was, kind of a wet look, so I left it alone.


The masking removed, it's time to attach the rest. Steering wheel was gloss black. The machine gun ring was carefully cut out and cleaned up, painted black with aluminum drybrushing, and glued up front. The assembled machine gun got a steel color and a wooden grip, and the muzzle was hollowed out using an X-Acto #11 blade tip. (Watch those fingers!). The pivot pops right into the ring, and can swivel if not glued. It looks menacing with it's photo-etched front sight. The acetate windscreen and headlight lens were cut out, and attached with white glue. Slight trimming was needed on the screen, after the inner headlight shell was painted aluminum, the lens popped right in. The Propeller's hub got a coat of aluminum, the whole thing then got brush painted flat black. Then I peeled some black off the hub, and drybrushed some light brown on the blades for a worn wood look. Let's ride!


One heck of a fun little model. For the Ten bucks or so you spend one would be hard pressed to find more modeling enjoyment. Low parts count with enough detail to look good and excellent fit throughout. If references could be found there is room for embellishment (the interior seems sparse to me, even for a Russian machine, and where is the tailpipe?) but that would miss my point. Build and enjoy. I want a real one! Winter approaches.

Only Wikepedia at this time.

Bill Koppos

October 2011
Kit courtesy of my whims

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