Following its release last Friday, it’s time to take a closer look at the RSO/01 Tractor! Warlord writer, Sam Phillips tells us more…
The Raupenschlepper Ost (Caterpillar Tracked East) was a fully tracked lightweight tractor primarily designed to tow light to medium artillery. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, they found that wheeled and half tracked vehicles had great difficulty in getting anywhere in the thick mud and snow.
In 1942 a German manufacturer, Steyr, created a small tracked tractor based on an original truck design, the RSO/01. The tractor was lightly armoured and was not designed as a combat vehicle.
A few variants were made upon the RSO chassis – including a self-propelled gun with a PAK 40 attached. This gave the infantry a highly mobile anti-tank weapon, capable of going where the infantry could, at the expense of very little protection. Another variant which never quite made it into mass production was an amphibious version, featuring a inflatable ring for buoyancy – suffice to say it did not catch on!
Using the transmission of a 1.5 tonne truck, the RSO was a powerful vehicle with the wheel suspensions being made of steel and without any rubber tyres. The positioning of the four road wheels per side gave it greater purchase on the snow and ice, making it far more manoeuvrable. Good ground clearance allowed it to traverse through the roughest of terrain and the suspension system also meant that snow would not freeze the wheels, unlike the half-tracks being used at the time.
The RSO/01 came with a steel cab having much in common with a truck design, with a wooden cargo area on the back, whilst later versions would also feature a wooden cab, possibly to save on cost.
The tractor was perfect for the war in the east, where it would make the most of its unique design to get artillery to where it was most needed and go where other vehicles wheeled could not. The RSO/01 was cheap to produce and quick to build. The vehicle was also used to carry vital supplies and equipment to the soldiers, and bring ammunition and shells to the artillery. This humble little vehicle was one of the workhorses of the eastern campaign and brought vital supplies and heavy weapons to an otherwise beleaguered force. Around 23,000 were built of all types. Reliable and powerful, this little tractor was well-liked by the infantry.