Tag Archives: Geophysica

M-55: the spy who loves Sweden

It sounds like your typical James Bond Cold War era movie: under the cover of international research a Russian aircraft is secretly being used to spy on military bases and weapons tests. Welcome to Sweden in the year 2016, as the following story evolves.

Star of the show is the Myasishchev M-55, or the “U-2 spyplane” of the Soviet Union. Currently the only high altitude geophysical research aircraft the twin-boom jet its latest mission may have been more worth its NATO reporting name Mystic-B, then of its current additional name Geophysica.

Kiruna Airport

From 1996 the Russian aircraft has been employed for measurement campaigns funded by the European Union. For another such stratospheric mission for the earth’s climate research – ran by the Stratoclim project, the M-55 touched down on Kiruna Airport in the Swedish Far North on 15 April, just when the diplomatic okay for its being in Swedish airspace ended. If Swedish sources are correct, the Russian embassy had a hand into the late arrival, proposed flight pattern during the research and pressed for a late departure.

Leaving a cloud of snow behind (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)
According to some sources, the Russian really wanted to see new-styled Gripen ops like this one up close. Image taken during an exercise on Vidsel Air Station in March 2016 (Image © Louise Levin / Försvarsmakten)

Swedish armed forces tests

The Swedish quality newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) writes that Russian planners deliberately wanted the plane to be up just when the Swedish armed forces ran two important exercises: another new fighter jet dispersal test like the one at Airheadsfly.com wrote about, as well as a weapons launch from the “Edwards” of Sweden: Vidsel Air Station and the nearby ranges.

High altitude departure

There is controversy on why the plane was grounded much longer than planned. The Russian embassy apparently noted technical issues, while the Swedish Ministry of Defence suspects spy plans. If there was a real problem with either the plane or the crew’s intentions is uncertain, but it left Sweden on 21 April on a high altitude of about 58,000 feet – apparently with everything technically working as planned.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The Myasishchev M-55 Geophysica (Image © Rob Schleiffert)