Russia’s Repurposed Spy Aircraft to Provide Strike Coordinates for Missile Units

Russia is developing a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft system to provide real-time target coordinates to ground-based weapon systems for more accurate strikes.

It comprises the Myasischev M-55 Geophysica aircraft and a suspended container consisting of radars, electronic reconnaissance systems, or optical-electronic stations, depending on the requirement, Izvestia revealed, citing sources.

Reconnaissance Payloads

The electronic reconnaissance system can detect radar radiation, radio communication centers, and even mobile phones from hundreds of kilometers away.

It can detect and identify “the coordinates and technical characteristics of targets such as communication and information transmission systems, radar stations, and control lines for unmanned aerial vehicles,” the Russian state-backed outlet explained.

The radar container comprises the fourth-generation Pika-M radar, while the optical-electronic container extracts “information by receiving and analyzing radiation in the ultraviolet, visible and infrared ranges, which are created by reconnaissance objects.”

Russian officials give a presentation of the Iskander M missile
Russian officials give a presentation of the Iskander M missile at the 4th international military-technical forum in August 2018 in Kubinka. Photo: AFP

M-55 Geophysica Aircraft

The 1980s aircraft was initially developed to intercept America’s high-altitude spy balloons but was later redesignated for reconnaissance and research roles.

Its high flight altitude of 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) enables it to peer deep into the enemy’s position, while its modular design will allow payload integration.


Russia’s missile and artillery units are expected to be the aircraft’s beneficiaries, followed by its aviation and naval arms, according to the outlet.

“Aircraft operating in the stratosphere will primarily provide targets for ground forces missilemen,” Izvestia quoted military expert Dmitry Kornev as saying.

“Front-line aviation will also receive relevant targets, including helicopter units armed with high-precision LMUR (light multipurpose guided rocket) missiles.”

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