British intelligence has learned of Russia’s plans to decommission a Soviet M-55 reconnaissance aircraft.
The UK Ministry of Defense said that there is a possibility that the M-55 will be used in the war with Ukraine.
In Soviet times, the M-55 stratospheric reconnaissance aircraft was being developed, which, due to its high altitude, would be out of reach of most ground-based weapons.
In total, 2 to 5 vehicles of this type were built.
Photos that have recently appeared online show one of these aircraft equipped with a KNIRTI UKR-RT unit, which is commonly used by Su-34 tactical bombers in electronic reconnaissance missions.
In this regard, it has been suggested that the M-55 could return to service and engage in targeting over the territory of Ukraine or even beyond.
In its report, the British Ministry of Defense assumes such a scenario.
“Russia is probably considering the possibility of reintroducing the Soviet high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft Mystic B (NATO designation M-55). With an operating ceiling of more than 70,000 feet (21 km), the aircraft has recently been used for research and development missions. However, it was spotted carrying military reconnaissance equipment designed for use on Russian fighter jets,” British intelligence said.
According to the British military, the involvement of the M-55 in combat operations can be explained by difficulties in “creating an adequate intelligence, surveillance, target identification and reconnaissance capability.”
“There is a real possibility that the M-55 will return to the Russian air force and be used in Ukraine to strengthen Russia’s limited intelligence capabilities. Its ability to fly at high altitudes allows the equipment to operate at a safe distance,” the intelligence source said.
Characteristics of the M-55:
- The M-55 is equipped with two PS-30V-12 engines with a takeoff thrust of 4500 kg each.
- The airplane has a flight weight of 24,500 kg.
- Cruising speed is 740 km/h.
- The maximum flight range at an altitude of 17,000 meters is 5,000 km.
- The practical ceiling is 21,550 meters.
- The time spent at an altitude of 21,000 meters is one hour.
As a reminder, due to the sanctions, Russian radar surveillance and targeting aircraft A-100 are forced to replace Western electronics with domestic ones.