by: Robert Blokker [ ]
Originally published on:
So you have spend your winter chasing the German soldiers of the Third Reich in your Aerosan... "zipping" through the snow at 25 kilometers per hour and making their lives just a bit more miserable then it already was... And suddenly you find out that your progress is lost because Mother Nature ran out of snow for Mother Russia. And now you are stranded with your Aerosan on Ski's... What to do now? Well you pop on some wheels and continue what you were doing all through spring and summer of course.
The Aerosan was a Russian invention to create a faster way of traveling during the winter period by mounting a propeller to a car engine or a specially made aircraft engine and installing that onto a light, often wooden, structure on ski’s. The design proved to be a success during military actions in the Soviet Finnish winter war of 1939/1940. The aerosans in use were Topulev’s ANT IV and the NKL-6 designed by N. Andreev.
When the Germans turned against the Soviet Union these Aerosans needed to be updated. New designs were put in and older designs got an upgrade. One of these upgrades was fitted to the NKL-6 and with some altering in shape it became known as the NKL-26. It used the same principles as before. A simple enclosed lightweight plywood structure with a 10 mm armored plate to the front. On top it had an opening with an MG mount that allowed for a 300 degree circle for firing with the 7,62 mm DT Machine gun. The remaining 60 degrees was preserved for not shooting the prop to bits. The vehicle was pushed forward by an 100 HP M11 Single bank 5 cylinder air cooled radial aviation engine. The top speed through the snow was 25 to 35 km per hour... which might not seem shockingly fast but if you and your big German convoy are ground to a halt in a meter of snow those 25 kilometers per hour seem like greased lighting when it is coming toward you spraying bullets.
It could take bends but it was no razorsharp steering. Mostly it was pointing the nose generally into the right direction and hope you would not meet much trees on the trip. The vehicles were originally designed for use during the winter period. But even in Russia they will at some point run out of snow for the year. Which means you have a serviceable vehicle that you can’t use. So another solution was born... fit it out with wheels and you can make the German Soldiers life also a bit nastier during the summer period.
The Arsenal Model Group (AMG) NKL -26 Battle Aerosan comes in a flimsy white cardboard box roughly 24 cm wide, 15 cm deep, and 4 cm high, and is of the slide top variety. On top is a small sticker showing a period photo of the NKL-26 on wheels. The box contents (Plastic, P/etched, white metal and wire... yes it is a multimedia kit). And a small yellow square with a black border telling you it is a limited edition of only 300 kits.
Inside you will find a ziploc bag. And in that ziploc bag you will find 2 sprues in a creamy white color containing 23 parts. A smaller ziploc bag with in it several even smaller ziploc bags. This collection of bags hold 8 wheel halves and 2 vision ports in grey plastic, 22 white metal parts. 6 lengths of metal wire in several thicknesses. 1 fret of PE holding 39 parts, 1 transparant sheet with the windows for in the vision ports, and the front light lens and the blackout cover, 1 decal sheet with 2 options. The instructions are printed on 3 pages, A4 size in black and white and provides you with some history, a parts overview and building the vehicle in 4 steps, and the painting instructions.
The plastic parts are mainly the vehicles body, the bigger parts of the M11 engine, the propeller, the suspension arms for the wheels. The front light and the 7.62 mm DT Machine gun. The parts are all well executed with good details. The reinforcement ribs on the sides are crisply done. The propeller has the metal strips on the edge to protect it from damaging when it hits something harder then air as per the real thing. The DT machine gun is a very fragile affair that will require some care parting it from the sprue but the details are again pretty good. The plastic feels kind of soft and it has a bit of flash but take your time and you should not really get into trouble there. Some edges seem a bit rough in molding so it is very well possible that with the assembly of the body you have to use filler here and there.
Another issue I have with the kit is that on the original vehicle the front suspension was wider then the suspension at the back. This was done with the specific purpose of reducing vibration through the vehicle while gliding through the snow. The suspension arms on the AMG kit are all of the same length. So unless the soviets changed the suspension together with the ski’s, this detail is not right in the AMG kit. There is also no interior. But that is not really a problem since the doors are molded shut. The only area where this could prove a problem is the MG ring on top of the vehicle which is an open hole. So this area could definitely benefit from a figure. Or you will have to scratch a through the hatch interior. Dimension wise it is pretty close to the references I have.
The wheels are of the simple closed disk type and they come in two halves that need to be glued together. There are no locator pins anywhere so you really need to take care aligning those.
The 22 white metal parts are all for detailing and most of those parts will end up on the engine. These include the 5 cylinders and all the parts to detail those. The outer ends of the prop guard bars. The engines air filter, and several other bits and bobs. The casting is very well done with good details. Minimal clean-up is required as is usual with white metal parts and of course the casting lug needs to be removed.
The PE fret is a bit of an odd thing in that it doesn’t match the profile as given in the instruction sheet. But upon closer examination it appears that fret does belong to the NKL-26 on ski’s that AMG also has released. But in the built instructions all the parts are correctly numbered and shown in the correct places. Among the PE parts you will find more details to dress up the engine, a very nice chain drive, a pretty nice prop boss, several details for the vehicle’s body, parts for the vehicle’s steering, the MG Shield and a riveted ring to detail the roof turret ring.
The several lengths of metal wire are used all over the vehicle, from the steering system to the Prop guards. Keep a good eye on the instruction sheets page 1 since that tells you which thickness needs to be cut to which size etc. And it will also get a part number there which in turn will be a great help when installing it while following the instructions.
The small transparent sheet is quite straightforward. Two little windows for in the vision ports, one headlight lens and a blackout cover in black with a transparent slit in it. Same goes for the decal sheet which gives you 2 options. A hand painted 5 and a stencilled 13 with a small white star above it. Both decals need to be placed on the armored plate on the front of the vehicle.
Even though the sheets are printed quite clear it still takes you back to the hessian days of the eastern bloc instruction sheets. Building the vehicle’s body is very straightforward. But then you arrive at the engine. Building the cylinders is a 7 piece job. However... it generally shows you where they need to go but not exactly so a bit of head scratching is involved. Looking at further steps helps you not one bit since the whole engine setup is shown as a silhouette. Step 4 is the busiest step on the whole sheet where a huge amount of small parts together with the suspension is added. On the bottom of the 3rd sheet you will find the painting instructions. Instead of white this vehicle is painted in Khaki and the prop guards are red and white.
There are already a few Aerosans on the Market. Both Trumpeter and Vision models have the RF-8. Trumpeter Also has the NKL-16 and the NKL-26 on ski’s just as AMG but with the NKL-26 on wheels AMG is the first one to give you the possibility to take the Aerosan out of its natural snowy habitat and bring it to a spring or even summer setting. The lack of interior is just a minor setback since it is only really visible from the top. You could get away with scratching a simple “looks-like” interior or block the view with a figure. Also the Multimedia approach might not be everyone’s cup of tea however I think the kit really benefits from the Plastic/white metal and PE combination and will result in a really nice and interesting vehicle. The lack in offset between the front suspension and the back suspension is a bit of a puzzle. It could very well be that the people at AMG have a source that explains this. My sources state that the difference in width needs to be there so that is a bit of a minus for this kit.
Still for the price of $16.62 you will definitely get a good deal as it is a quite complete and detailed kit. And I definitely recommend it if you are looking for an oddity to build. It could very well be that if you read this review in a few months’ time the supply of 300 has ran out, it is a limited edition kit after all, you might try your luck on Ebay. And in that case, if you can get it at a good price I will still recommend it.