TechGone for years, suddenly surfaced at the airport

Gone for years, suddenly surfaced at the airport

Miasiszczew M-55 Geophysics
Miasiszczew M-55 Geophysics
Images source: © Lic. CC BY-SA 4.0, Vitaly V. Kuzmin, Wikimedia Commons
4:42 PM EST, November 6, 2023

The Soviet M-55 Geophysics aircraft stands apart due to both its unique design and functionality. Let's revisit the capabilities of this aircraft, which hasn't been in the news for the past six years.

"The Russians have recommenced the operations of the rare M-55 aircraft," reports the Defense Express portal. This claim is substantiated by photos from the Ramenskoye airport near Moscow, showing that the UKR-RT reconnaissance container, first spotted on the Su-34 fighter in 2021, has been mounted on the aircraft.

The last details of M-55 flights from Russia were reported back in 2017. It was announced then that the Geophysics aircraft had been put in long-term storage owing to a "dearth of scientific research orders," as notified by Defense Express. There has been no public information on the M-55 since then, until Saturday, November 4, when images of the aircraft were captured.

However, it remains uncertain what specific task the Russians plan to accomplish by re-enlisting the mentioned aircraft into service. The presence of the UKR-RT container on the M-55 might suggest that Russian forces intend to use the M-55 to detect electromagnetic emissions, including those from Starlink signals, in Ukraine.

M-55 Geophysics: A distinctive Russian aircraft with only a few replicas

The Myasishchev M-55 Geophysics is a uniquely global phenomenon. The aircraft was originally designed to intercept balloons (aerostats). Its exclusivity stems not only from its dual-beam layout with elongated, narrow wings but also from the limited number of models produced. Only four such aircraft were ever manufactured by the Russians.

The legacy of the M-55 dates back to the 1960s when the Soviet Union began conceptualizing the M-17 Stratosfera aircraft to intercept reconnaissance aircraft. However, delays in the project led to a shift in focus, resulting in the creation of the M-55 Geophysics, a high-altitude aircraft. Since 1996, the M-55 has been utilized for civilian scientific experiments.

M-55 Geophysics at the airport near Moscow.
M-55 Geophysics at the airport near Moscow.© DefenseExpress

Designing the Geophysics was indeed a formidable challenge due to the specific conditions the aircraft was supposed to withstand. Consequently, making the plane required a nearly 75-foot-long structure with a wingspan extending beyond 121 feet. The M-55 boasts a take-off weight of 50,706 lbs, a maximum speed of 466 mph, and can cover roughly 3,107 miles on a single refuel. Impressively, it can ascend to an altitude of 70,538 feet.

The M-55 is armed with a twin-barrel GSz-23 caliber 23mm, positioned in a remotely controlled gun station. The craft was engineered to accommodate upward firing capability for balloon interception. During its developmental stages, an optical sensor was fitted to detect balloons up to a distance of 25 miles.

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