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SOURCE: VINAYAK SHETTY / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

Soviet-made M-55 Geophysica reconnaissance plane often compared to the US Lockheed U-2 spy aircraft in terms of technical characteristics will be in India this summer to conduct series of high altitude flights all over India for good cause.

Alone surviving Myasishchev M-55 has been converted and currently used as a high-altitude geophysical research aircraft. M-55 will be in India this summer to carry out series of high-altitude test flights as part of second phase of the Eu-funded Stratoclim International upper atmosphere research programme pursued by 28 research organisations from 11 countries.

M-55 is equipped with 29 instruments weighing 2400kg which have been provided by 26 research centres of Europe and United states. M-55 will be in India from July to August this year to conduct flying in centre of monsoon to the areas of enhanced convection over the bay of Bengal to outflow towards the Arabian sea.

M-55 (55204) is only remaining airworthy prototype which currently has been used for high altitude experimental flights. Soviets had built Four M-55 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft in late 80’s and early 90’s but the program was soon abandoned after the collapse of the soviet union only to be used a decade later as a flying testbed for high-altitude experiments under International research programs.

M-55 is a twin-beam aircraft with a high-aspect-ratio wing which has a maximum takeoff weight of 24500 kg and carries 2250kg of payload. The service ceiling of M-55 stands at 21550 m and cruising speed at 750 km/h. M-55 has a maximum range of 5000km and 6.5-hour endurance and is powered by two PS-30V-12 high-altitude turbofans generating 93.192 kN (20,950 lb) thrust each.

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