With an operating ceiling of over 70,000 feet, the aircraft has been recently employed as an earth-sciences research platform. However, it has been observed carrying a military reconnaissance pod, developed for employment on russian fighter aircraft, the UK Defense Intelligence reports.
A critical flaw in russian procurement strategy has been its failure to establish an adequate Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability.
Read more: The UK Defense Intelligence: russia, Alarmed by Ukraine's Hosting of Western-Supplied Combat Aircraft, Initiates Use of the A-50 MAINSTAY D
This is critical for the timely and accurate prosecution of targets by air, sea, and ground forces.
There is a realistic possibility that the M-55 will return to frontline service to bolster russia’s limited ISTAR capabilities over Ukraine. Operating at high altitudes enables the sensors to work at considerable stand-off range.
It is almost certain that the aircraft will conduct missions against Ukraine from the relative safety of russian airspace.
Read more: In russia, Rare M-55 Geophysica High-altitude Aircraft Was Deconserved and Equiped with ELINT Container From Su-34 Fighter-Bomber