Russian forces are allegedly considering the reintroduction of a Soviet-era aircraft amid recent surveillance failures, according to British intelligence sources on Sunday.

The update concerning this development came from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense, which posts regular updates about the Russia-Ukraine war that began in February 2022. In Sunday’s post on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, the ministry reported that “Russia is likely considering” the reintroduction of a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft first developed by the Soviet Union in response to similarly intended American crafts. The craft in question is known as the Myasishchev M-55 in Russia, and designated as the M-55 Mystic-B by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“Russia is likely considering bringing the Soviet-era M-55 MYSTIC B high altitude reconnaissance aircraft back into service,” the ministry’s post reads. “With an operating ceiling of over 70,000 feet, 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.”

Russian forces are seen in Ukraine in April 2022. UK intelligence sources recently reported that Russia is likely considering the deployment of a Soviet-era recon craft on the Ukrainian frontlines.
Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images

The ministry added in its update that an ongoing issue with adequate surveillance capabilities may be why Russian forces are looking to reintroduce this craft into service. Improvements in areas such as this would consequently improve Russia’s ability to handle targets.

“A critical flaw in Russian procurement strategy has been its failure to establish an adequate Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability,” the U.K.’s defense ministry continued in its post. “This is critical for the timely and accurate prosecution of targets by air, sea, and ground forces.”

While unconfirmed at this time, the ministry estimated that there is a “realistic possibility” that the M-55 will be deployed on the frontlines in Ukraine to improve Russia’s reconnaissance capabilities in that prolonged conflict. The craft’s high altitude would allow it to operate “at considerable stand-off range,” and the ministry added that “it is almost certain that the aircraft will conduct missions against Ukraine from the relative safety of Russian airspace.”

Newsweek reached out to Russian officials and defense experts via email for comment.

On Saturday, the ministry’s update noted that neither Russian nor Ukrainian forces have made substantial gains in areas where combat is the most concentrated, and due to the coming winter, it is unlikely that this dynamic will change much anytime soon.

“Neither side has achieved substantial progress in any of these areas,” the ministry wrote on X. “Russia continues to suffer particularly heavy casualties around Avdiivka. As colder winter weather sets in earnest in eastern Ukraine, there are few immediate prospects of major changes in the frontline.”