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​russia Revives the M-55 Geophysica Aircraft and Equips it with Reconnaissance Containers

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The M-55 Geophysica aircraft with the UKR-RT container, autumn 2023 / open source
The M-55 Geophysica aircraft with the UKR-RT container, autumn 2023 / open source

The reappearance of the M-55 aircraft marks a new chapter in russia’s aerial reconnaissance capabilities, raising questions about its future role in military operations

In November 2023, publicly available images indicated that russia had reinstated the M-55 Geophysica, a rare high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, into active service. Flights were observed taking place at the Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow.

Originally designed during Soviet times for reconnaissance and target designation for missile strikes, the M-55 Geophysica aircraft had been repurposed for scientific research following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, in the autumn of 2023, it re-emerged equipped with a UKR-RT container for radio-technical reconnaissance, which was being developed for the Su-34 aircraft. This development caused a notable reaction, prompting the British Ministry of Defense to address it in one of its intelligence reports.

Read more: russia Plan to Reintroduce Soviet-Era M-55 MYSTIC B Reconnaissance Aircraft For Surveillance Over Ukraine

A recent photo of the russian M-55 Geophysica aircraft in flight has now been made available, revealing two distinct containers under its wings. The first is the previously mentioned UKR-RT, and the second is an UKR-RL electronic reconnaissance container.

The M-55 Geophysica aircraft with the UKR-RT and UKR-RL containers, autumn 2023 Defense Express russia Revives the M-55 Geophysica Aircraft and Equips it with Reconnaissance Containers
The M-55 Geophysica aircraft with the UKR-RT and UKR-RL containers, autumn 2023 / open source

This development suggests that russia may be repurposing the M-55 Geophysica aircraft more as a “flying laboratory” for testing or refining technical aspects with the suspended reconnaissance equipment containers. These containers could potentially be later employed under the wings of tactical aviation aircraft within the russian Aerospace Forces. However, it is not to be ruled out that russia might utilize the M-55 aircraft for some time in conducting demonstration flights near NATO borders, simulating reconnaissance missions or genuinely gathering intelligence information.

The nomenclature of reconnaissance containers for tactical aircraft of the russian Aerospace Forces Defense Express russia Revives the M-55 Geophysica Aircraft and Equips it with Reconnaissance Containers
The nomenclature of reconnaissance containers for tactical aircraft of the russian Aerospace Forces / open source
Read more: ​In russia, Rare M-55 Geophysica High-altitude Aircraft Was Deconserved and Equiped with ELINT Container From Su-34 Fighter-Bomber