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Myasishchev M-55 (Mystic)

High-Altitude Reconnaissance / Scientific Research Aircraft

Myasishchev M-55 (Mystic)

High-Altitude Reconnaissance / Scientific Research Aircraft


The Myasishchev M-55 Mystic was developed as a high-altitude reconnaissance platform similar in mission scope to the American Lockheed U-2 series.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: Soviet Union
YEAR: 1978
MANUFACTURER(S): Myasishchev - Soviet Union
OPERATORS: Russia; Soviet Union

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Myasishchev M-55 (Mystic-B) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 74.80 feet (22.8 meters)
WIDTH: 122.90 feet (37.46 meters)
HEIGHT: 15.75 feet (4.8 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 30,865 pounds (14,000 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 44,092 pounds (20,000 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Soloviev D-30-V12 non-afterburning turbofan engines developing 20,950 lb of thrust each.
SPEED (MAX): 206 miles-per-hour (332 kilometers-per-hour; 179 knots)
RANGE: 3,107 miles (5,000 kilometers; 2,700 nautical miles)
CEILING: 70,538 feet (21,500 meters; 13.36 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,970 feet-per-minute (600 meters-per-minute)

Subject 34 (Proposed):
2 x 23mm GSh-23 cannons in dorsal turret
2 x Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs)

M-17 / M-55:
No armament. Specialized data-collecting /research payload carried.
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile

Series Model Variants
• Subject 34 - Original balloon destroyer model; single example produced; lost to accident.
• M-17 "Stratosphera" ("Mystic-A") - Dedicated high-altitude reconnaissance variant; fitted with 1 x Kolesov RD-36-51 turbojet engine; 2 examples produced.
• M-17RN - Original designation of M-55 series; lengthened fuselage; twin-engine configuration; improved payload capabilities; reduced wingspan.
• M-55 "Geophysica" - Atmospheric research platform; fitted with 2 x Soloviev D-30-10V turbofan engines; five examples produced.
• M-55UTS - Two-seat, dual-control trainer platform with tandem seating.
• M-55 "Geophysica 2" - Proposed improved research platform; never built.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Myasishchev M-55 (Mystic) High-Altitude Reconnaissance / Scientific Research Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/21/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Myasishchev M-55 (NATO codename of "Mystic") was originally developed to counter the cold War-eras threat posed by American high-altitude reconnaissance balloons launched into Soviet and Chinese airspace during the 1950s and 1960s. The original program begat the "Subject 34" aircraft of which only one was built. This aircraft was eventually evolved along two lines further into its career, resulting in the M-17 "Stratosphera" ("Mystic-A") "balloon destroyer" / reconnaissance platform and the M-55 "Geophysica ("Mystic-B") high-altitude reconnaissance and research platform. Two of the former were produced and five of the latter with the last aircraft arriving in 1994.

Enemy balloons could be released in allied airspace by the enemy and drift over Soviet territories. As they were powerless, carried about by the current, there were little, if any, telltale signs of their operation. Unless spotted visibly and intercepted, the balloons could cross the country and deliver critical reconnaissance information. As such, Subject 34 was envisioned with and armament of 2 x 23mm GSh-23 cannons (fitted to a dorsal turret) and provision for 2 x Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) to engage these targets as a balloon interceptor. However, when the American satellite program improved to the point that these balloons were no longer necessary, there proved little need for evolving the Subject 34 product. At any rate, the prototype was lost in a crash after conducting taxi tests during December of 1978.

Another offshoot of the design was pushed through for the reconnaissance role similar in mission scope to the American Lockheed U-2 spyplane. This aircraft was given a revised airframe and carried a single Rybinsk / Kolesov RD-36-51V series turbojet engine developed from the Tupolev 144 supersonic jet airliner's propulsion unit. A prototype achieved first-flight on May 26th, 1982 and was given the designation of M-17 "Stratosphera" in Soviet service. Once acknowledged by the West, the NATO codename became "Mystic-A". Besides setting a dozen aircraft records, this design also went on to serve in scientific research roles.

M-17 was itself modified to become the "M-17RN" high-altitude reconnaissance platform and, later, finalized as the M-55 "Geophysica". A first-flight in prototype form occurred on August 16th, 1988 and this fuselage differed in being longer than the original. Additionally, the single engine installation was given up in favor of a twin-engine, side-by-side approach - these being 2 x Soloviev D-30-10V turbofans. The wingspan of the mainplanes was reduced and there was improved support for onboard mission equipment (mainly sensors).

Again the series set about rewriting the aviation record books as the M-55 secured no fewer than fifteen of its own for its time in the air. To better train incoming pilots on the intricacies of this unique aircraft, a tandem two-seat version was also developed as the "M-55UTS". Like theM-17 before it, the M-55 went on to conduct scientific work itself and remains in active service as of this writing. A more advanced version was proposed as the "Geophysica 2" but not followed up on.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (206mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Myasishchev M-55 (Mystic-B)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (8)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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