Recent open-source imagery has revealed that Russia has revived the high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft M-55 “Geophysica.”
The test work is reportedly taking place at the Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow, stirring intrigue and raising questions about the aircraft’s renewed role.
According to Defense Express, a specialized container, possibly containing UKR-RT (radio-technical reconnaissance equipment), was spotted under the wing of this aircraft.
The M-55 Geophysica, known in the West as Mystic-B, is a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft (service ceiling 21.5 km) with a remarkable history. It first took to the skies in 1988, closely resembling the Lockheed U-2, and was designed for reconnaissance missions as part of missile strike purposes. Notably, it was intended for use with the Soviet Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) “Oka,” which has since been decommissioned, making way for its successor, the “Iskander” system.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, only a handful of these aircraft were constructed, but they remain in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces. Officially, these aircraft are designated for scientific research purposes, yet the Ministry of Defense’s website still lists them as reconnaissance aircraft.
The resurgence of flights involving the M-55 “Geophysica” can be linked to several possible motives. It may involve ongoing efforts to test onboard equipment for tactical aviation within the Russian Aerospace Forces. Alternatively, it could signify an attempt to reestablish the aircraft’s original purpose: reconnaissance for executing missile strikes using operational-tactical systems, such as the “Iskander,” against targets in Ukraine.