Bizarre armor projects of the '40s. Combat sleigh of "General Winter"

Luckily today is a silent day, with few news, allowing me to post the stuff I had been gathering for whole days. And what better thing to start with than an historical article translated by Vlad! (PS: you will see better pictures than the first one)
In the winter of 1941, warm clothes were collected for the German Wehrmacht soldiers on the Eastern Front, including women’s pelts and mulls. At the same time near Moscow, Tula, Mzensk the pinnacles of German engineering were freezing, stalling and breaking. “General Winter”, however, didn’t fight Germans only, the soldiers of the Red Army also suffered from his fangs. But the Soviet troops had greater experience fighting in winter conditions compared to the Germans. This is shown at least by the fact that Soviet successes in the first half of the Great Patriotic War were achieved during winter.
Inventions of military equipment suited for fighting during cold periods received much attention. This direction received a solid boost from the experiences in the Winter War in 1939-40. As a result, many interesting and bizarre projects appeared during the ’40s.
From moto-skis to snowgliders
In May 1941 Kharkov plumber H. Slepzov sent a letter addressed to commisar S. Timoshenko of the people’s commissariat of defense. He proposed to build a vehicle with three skis: steered by a frontal one and with two at the back. Propulsion would be provided by a motorcycle engine connected by a chain to a studded driving wheel. At the frontal fork of the moto-skis, the armament should be placed – two Maxim machineguns.
The text was written with pencil on fragments of writing paper, the author’s spelling was lacking: “The driving speed of the moto-skis is equal to a motorcycle” (TN: I will omit the mistakes for ease of translation). Nevertheless, the military redirected the project to the research institute of engineering technology of the Red Army, from there – to the inventions department of the GABTU, where it was thoroughly analyzed by specialists. After receiving a reasoned rejection with the description of all deficiencies, Slepzov remained unsatisfied. One single day before the start of the Great Patriotic War he wrote a second letter. The inventor asked for the project to progress and to be invited to Moscow for leading the work. Despite the hard conditions of the early period of the war, the GABTU specialists did pay attention to his message. But of course, Slepzov didn’t achieve approval anyway.
In July 1941 a proposal by engineer A. Grandilevsky was called the “winter raider”. The author invented a machine which was able to make jumps after accumulating speed and camouflage itself with a snow veil similar to a smoke one. The “raider” would be equipped with auxiliary rocket engines and a flare device. “I came to the conclusion that in winter conditions during combat in the lake region (northern regions and Finland) detachments of my machines would be able to crush the enemy” – Grandilevsky wrote.

The idea of the apparatus to move not only by land was popular across the inventors. The Moscow resident V. Morozov wrote a letter in September 1941 beginning with a lyrical phrase “The famous Russian winter has begun…”. The author proposed for the divisions of the Red Army to “use a streamlined parabolical wing with good aerodynamical properties while putting it on skis and arming with machineguns and grenade launchers”. The inventor emphasized that “the snow glider is not to be compared with the clumsy snowmobiles”. Movement of the vehicle would be provided by a GAZ automobile engine. Morozov listed the advantages of his project – simplicity of design, construction and operation. But he did not provide any drawings, only a pencil sketch, which remained in the archives.
“Salamander against fascism”, pedal drive and winged skis
In February 1942 engineers of Nevyansk’ machinebuilding plant A. Kuznetsov and P. Alp addressed a letter to Stalin directly proposing a project with the name “salamander against fascism”. The name’s imagery was described by the author as follows: “The salamander is an animal which changes its’ color according to the surroundings, is toxic, strikes its’ prey swiftly and soundlessly approaches it, has a small but long silhouette”.
The armored body of two pairs of skis would house one soldier who would fire a machinegun. The snowmobile was also planned to be equipped with rocket launchers. Similar armament brought later on fame upon the British batallion “C” of the Coldstream guards, whose Sherman Fireflys carried launchers for 76mm rockets. But the inventions department of the GABTU rejected the “salamander” together with its’ rockets.
Waging war lying inside a steel tube is, to put it midly, not very comfortable. However, in December 1942, design engineer V. Lokaj proposed a project of armored snowmobiles with a crew of two, lying on each side of the powerplant. The author reasoned: during winter, mass usage of motorcycles and armor was complicated, but simple snowmobiles are poorly protected and reveal their position due to the loud engines. Lokaj saw a solution in combining the advantages of two types of vehicles, namely  – a protected body with low silhouette placed on skis. The motorcycle engine could be replaced with pedals or pneumatics in the author’s opinion – to cross small distances during fighting.
The fantasies of the inventors can only be envied. Lokaj was not alone with his pedal drive. In 1944 the inventor D. Galagan invented the snowmobile “Auto-horse”, representing two bodies on skids, moved not by a propeller at the back, but by paddle wheels on the sides.
Finally, in spring 1945 the mechanic K. Klobukov stepped even further than his predecessors. He proposed mechanical skis of his own construction, adding the following: “…and I ask to add sliding wings to be able to fly over uncomfortable places at any moment”.
With all their quirkiness, all described projects weren’t just fantasies of negligent inventors. It was just a way of interpretation and implementation of combat experience and at the same time a honest try of peaceful Soviet citizens to help the Red Army. And the extreme weather conditions only fueled these ambitions.
Author – Yuri Bachurin
Sources: ZAMO RF
Fletcher D. Sherman Firefly