Germany’s Raupenschlepper Ost 7.5cm PaK 40/4 auf. RSO
In response to the poor performance of wheeled and half-track vehicles in mud and snow during the Wehrmacht’s first winter on the Soviet front, the Austrian manufacturer Steyr proposed a small fully-tracked vehicle based upon its 1.5-ton truck already employed by the army. The Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) or “Caterpillar Tractor East,” was introduced in 1942. This light vehicle was initially designed as a prime mover and artillery supply vehicle but eventually served in a variety of roles, including the antitank gun platform seen in this recent 1/35-scale kit from Dragon Models.
As a whole the RSO kit is a fairly quick build, with few parts. That is not to say, however, that this will be a trouble-free project. My biggest challenge centered on the construction of the front and rear axles. These assemblies are plagued with poor-fitting parts and confusing construction diagrams. In addition, the instructions call for affixing the drive wheels early in the construction process. However, this can lead to problems later when it’s time to align the guide teeth to the tracks. I advise installing the tracks and drive wheels at the same time. Speaking of wheels, the mounting pins for the road wheels are almost non-existent—and sure to be broken off at some point. Install small brass pins for added strength. And finally an authenticity alert: Dragon’s designers apparently took their cues from a restored museum vehicle which had the original seats replaced with American postwar M113 seats.
Construction of the remainder of the kit was delightful, much more in keeping with Dragon’s usually high standards. The gun is very nice both in ease of construction and accuracy of detail; it was included in earlier DML releases (6249, 6250), but this time appears with a plastic barrel instead of metal. The cruciform gun base is a little complex in its assembly, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully for the proper alignment of the parts.
Despite the initial construction difficulties, Dragon has given us a nice representation of the RSO, which looks great in my display case and is a vast improvement over the previous offerings.
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.