Russia is considering returning to service one of its most exotic aircraft, the Myasishchev M-55 (codenamed Mystic B by NATO), the UK Ministry of Defence said on November 19.
The plan is for the aircraft to be used in high-altitude reconnaissance to spy on Ukraine.
The M-55 is a twin-engine jet capable of flying at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet (over 21,000 meters) and was a development on the single-engine M-17. This plane, in turn, was based on “Subject 34”, an interceptor created to shoot down US reconnaissance balloons.
“Geophysica”, as it was called by Russia, first flew in 1988 and was reportedly used in research into the Arctic and Antarctica.
Five of these jets were built, with their wide-wingspan, twin-tail configuration with a horizontal stabilizer joining them together.
Not by chance, the M-55 became known as the “Russian U-2”, in reference to the famous US Air Force (USAF) spy plane.
According to the UK MoD, the M-55 “has been observed carrying a military reconnaissance pod, developed for employment on Russian fighter aircraft”.
Russia has failed to establish an adequate Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability and upgrading the M-55 for this purpose may be a short-term solution.
“There is a realistic possibility that the M-55 will return to frontline service to bolster Russia’s limited ISTAR capabilities over Ukraine. It is almost certain that the aircraft will conduct missions against Ukraine from the relative safety of Russian airspace,” said the British government .