Myasishchev M-55

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M-55 Geophysica
Myasishchev M-55 Geophysica, MAKS 2001.jpg
Myasishchev M-55 Geophysica at MAKS Airshow 2001
Role High-altitude reconnaissance
Manufacturer Myasishchev
First flight Subject 34: December 1978[1]
M-17: 26 May 1982
M-55: 16 August 1988
Status In service[citation needed]
Primary users Soviet Air Force
Russian Air Force
Number built Subject 34: 1[1]
M-17: at least 2
M-55: 5

The Myasishchev M-55 (NATO reporting name: Mystic-B) is a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft[2] developed by OKB Myasishchev in the Soviet Union, similar in mission to the Lockheed ER-2, but with a twin-boom fuselage and tail surface design. It is a twin-engined development of the Myasishchev M-17 Stratosphera with a higher maximum take-off weight.

Design and development[edit]

During the 1950s and 1960s the United States instituted several programs using high-altitude reconnaissance balloons, released over friendly territory to ascend into the jetstream and be transported over the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China.[3]

Subject 34[edit]

To combat these high-altitude balloons, Myasishchev proposed Subject 34 a single-seat turbojet-powered twin-boom high-aspect-ratio aircraft. Armament of the single-seat balloon interceptor was to have been two air-air missiles (AAM) and two GSh-23 cannon with 600 rounds per gun in a dorsal turret. Before Subject 34 could be developed into operational hardware, the threat receded due to the success of the Keyhole reconnaissance satellites of the Corona program and the emergence of the Lockheed A-12.

The first prototype of Subject 34 was completed in secret at the Kumertau helicopter plant in Bashkirya, but whilst carrying out taxi tests, in December 1978 piloted by K. V. Chernobrovkin, the prototype Chaika lifted off to avoid hitting snow banks and was destroyed after hitting a hillside in zero visibility.[1]

M-17 Stratosphera[edit]

Myasishchev M-17 Stratosphera CCCP-17103 at Monino

The design of the Chaika was adapted as a reconnaissance aircraft and emerged as the Myasishchev M-17 Stratosphera with a revised airframe, including straight tapered wings with 2° 30' anhedral (0° at 1g), shorter fuselage pod and unreheated Kolesov RD-36-51 turbojet engine. Flown for the first time on 26 May 1982, the M-17 prototype (regn CCCP 17401) was soon allocated the NATO reporting name Mystic-A[3] and was used for investigating the Ozone layer over Antarctica in 1992.

The M-17 also set a total of 12 FAI world records, 5 of which still stand.[4] On 28 March 1990, M-17 CCCP 17401 piloted by Vladimir V. Arkhipenko[5] set an altitude record of 21,830 m (71,620 ft) in class C-1i (Landplanes: take-off weight 16 000 to 20 000 kg).[6]

M-55 Geophysica[edit]

The M-17 balloon-interceptor-based model was terminated in 1987 and replaced by the M-17RN, later known as the M-55 Geophysica, which was dubbed by NATO Mystic-B.[3] First flown on 16 Aug 1988, the M-55 airframe was revised further with a longer fuselage pod, housing two Soloviev D-30-10V un-reheated (non-afterburner) turbofan engines, shorter-span wings and comprehensive sensor payload.

The M-55 set a total of 15 FAI world records, all of which still stand today:[7] On 21 September 1993, an M-55 piloted by Victor Vasenkov from the 8th State R&D Institute of the Air Force named after V. P. Chkalov at Akhtubinsk reached a class record altitude of 21,360 m (70,080 ft) in class C-1j (Landplanes: take-off weight 20,000 to 25,000 kg (44,000 to 55,000 lb)).[8]

A dual-control version, the M-55UTS, was developed by adding a second cockpit behind the original, displacing some avionics and/or sensor payload.[1]

A number of M-55 Geophysica remain in service, performing in research roles; one M-55 took part in a study of the Arctic stratosphere in 1996–1997,[3] with similar experiments performed in Antarctica during 1999.[9]

An Irish-headquartered company Qucomhaps, with a focus on South East Asia, has entered a 1-billion USD deal to use the M-55 as a high-altitude platform station for digital communications.[10]


Subject 34
The prototype of a high-altitude balloon interceptor, dubbed Chaika (Gull), was completed in secret at the Kumertau helicopter plant in Bashkirya.[1]
M-17 Stratosphera
A reconnaissance version of Subject 34, given the NATO reporting name Mystic-A, powered by a single Kolesov RD-36-51 turbojet engine. At least two M-17 aircraft were built.[1]
Initial designation of what was to become the M-55.
M-55 Geophysica
A refined version of the M-17 powered by two Soloviev D-30-10V unreheated turbofans, carrying a wide variety of sensors for Earth-sciences research. Five M-55 aircraft were built, including one M-55UTS.
Proposed ground attack variant. Not built.[11]
A dual-control trainer version of the M-55 with a second cockpit directly aft of the forward cockpit, displacing some of the avionic/sensor payload, otherwise identical to the M-55.
Geophysica 2
a more advanced Earth-sciences research aircraft derived from the M-55, but not proceeded with.[1]


 Soviet Union

Specifications (M-55)[edit]

Myasishchev M-55 at MAKS 2005
Myasishchev M-55 Geophysica 3 views.svg

Data from The Osprey Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft 1875–1995[1][12][13]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 (M-55UTS: 2)
  • Length: 22.867 m (75 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 37.46 m (122 ft 11 in)
  • Height: 4.8 m (15 ft 9 in)
  • Wing area: 131.6 m2 (1,417 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio: 10.6
  • Empty weight: 13,995 kg (30,854 lb)
  • Gross weight: 23,400 kg (51,588 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 23,800 kg (52,470 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: T-8V aviation jet fuel 7,900 kg (17,400 lb) initially, 8,300 kg (18,300 lb) later
  • Powerplant: 2 × Soloviev D-30-V12 low-bypass turbofan, 93.192 kN (20,950 lbf) thrust each


750 km/h (470 mph; 400 kn) at 20,000 m (66,000 ft)
  • Range: 4,965 km (3,085 mi, 2,681 nmi)
  • Endurance: 6.5 hours at 17,000 m (56,000 ft)
  • Service ceiling: 21,500 m (70,500 ft)
  • Maximum glide ratio: around 30:1 (engine off)
  • Time to altitude: 21,000 m (69,000 ft) in 35 minutes
  • Take-off distance: 900 m (3,000 ft)
  • Landing distance: 780 m (2,560 ft)

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Gordon, Yefim; Bill Gunston OBE FRAeS (2000). Soviet X-planes. Leicester: Midland Publishing. pp. 136–139. ISBN 1 85780 099 0.
  2. ^ "Myasischev M-55 Geophysica Reconnaissance Aircraft |". Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Taylor, Michael J. H. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999–2000, 2000. ISBN 1-85753-245-7, p. 157.
  4. ^ "List of records established by the 'Myasishchev M-17'". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Archived from the original on 30 May 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2008.
  5. ^ Thornborough, Anthony M. (1991). Spy Planes and Other Reconnaissance Aircraft. London, UK: Arms and Armour Press. p. 7. ISBN 1-85409-096-8.
  6. ^ "Powered Aeroplanes World Records#id2243". Geneva: Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Powered Aeroplanes World Records". Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Powered Aeroplanes World Records#id814". Geneva: Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  9. ^ Airborne Polar Experiment – Geophysics Aircraft In Antarctica (APE-GAIA) Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "Qucomhaps Press Release" (PDF). Qucomhaps. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2008.
  11. ^ Alberto Trevisan; Anatoly P. Borovik (2020). Russian and Soviet Ground Attack Aircraft. IBN. ISBN 9788875654863.
  12. ^ Gunston, Bill (1995). The Osprey Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft 1875-1995. London: Osprey Aerospace. pp. 261–263. ISBN 1855324059.
  13. ^ Myasishchev M-55 Archived 2007-10-10 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 11 May 2010

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]