The relevant statement was made by the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom on the social media platform X, referring to the latest Defence Intelligence update, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.
With an operating ceiling of over 70,000 feet (20,000 metres), the aircraft has been recently employed as an earth-sciences research platform. However, it has been observed carrying a military reconnaissance pod, developed for employment on Russian fighter aircraft, the analysts noted.
According to the UK intelligence, a critical flaw in Russian procurement strategy has been its failure to establish an adequate Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. This is critical for the timely and accurate prosecution of targets by air, sea, and ground forces.
“There is a realistic possibility that the M-55 will return to frontline service to bolster Russia’s limited ISTAR capabilities over Ukraine. Operating at high altitudes enables the sensors to work at considerable stand-off range,” the report states.
The analysts concluded that it is almost certain that the aircraft will conduct missions against Ukraine from the relative safety of Russian airspace.