Myasishchev Bids To Revive M-55 High-Flier

AIN Defense Perspective » December 20, 2013
Myasishchev has proposed converting a second M-55 high-altitude aircraft for research purposes. The first one–seen here during a flypast at the Russian Air Force 100th anniversary airshow in 2012–is nearly out of hours. (Photo: Chris Pocock)
December 20, 2013, 2:20 PM

The former Myasishchev design bureau that is now part of Russia’s United Aircraft wants to convert a second M-55 into a civilian flying laboratory for high-altitude atmospheric research. It would complement a Yakovlev Yak-42D trijet that was delivered to the ministry of natural resources and its weather forecasting arm, RosHydroMet, on December 6 for such research at low and medium altitudes. Speakers at the Yak-42D handover ceremony recalled that the government previously planned two flying labs for RosHydroMet, but because of the worldwide economic crisis in 2008-09, funds were provided for only one airplane.

Myasishchev built a total of five M-55s in the late 1980s as reconnaissance aircraft for the Russian ministry of defense. One of them (airframe number two) went for structural testing; two crashed during flight-testing (number one crashed on takeoff, number five was lost to a spin); and two remain airworthy. The fourth airframe (S/N55204) was reworked into a purely civilian flying laboratory from 1993 to 1996. It then flew over Europe, Africa, Latin America, Australia, the Arctic and Antarctica and a number of remote islands, specifically to address scientific issues relating to the tropopause and the ozone layer.

These flights were mostly for foreign organizations. But this airframe is nearly time-expired, leaving only number three as the potential new high-altitude research aircraft. It has logged few hours but still contains the original military mission equipment.

Myasishchev chief test pilot Oleg Schepetkov, who has done most of the M-55 flying so far, told AIN that airframe number three has been maintained in airworthy condition, with regular ground runs of the D30V12 turbofans. He claimed that the M-55 is better suited for atmospheric research work than the Lockheed U-2 design because of the latter’s stricter flight envelope and regime limitations. NASA flies two ER-2 versions of the U-2 for high-altitude research work, based at Palmdale, Calif., as well as three WB-57Fs based at Houston, Texas.

“The M-55 has proved itself capable of flying in highly turbulent atmosphere and also in the conditions of very cold ambient temperatures, down to -92 degrees Celsius,” Schepetkov added.

The Russian air force still has one high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft in service: the supersonic MiG-25R.

FILED UNDER: 
Share this...

Please Register

In order to leave comments you will now need to be a registered user. This change in policy is to protect our site from an increased number of spam comments. Additionally, in the near future you will be able to better manage your AIN subscriptions via this registration system. If you already have an account, click here to log in. Otherwise, click here to register.

 
X