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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Russia Unleashes Powerful New "Hybrid" Missile In Latest Air Attacks On Ukraine

As Moscow launches the heaviest bombardment of Ukraine in months, evidence suggests that it may have started using a new hybrid missile that would be able to evade some high-tech Western air defense systems.

photo of a missile attached to a fighter jet

An earlier design of Russia's guided GROM missile

Nikolai Novichkov/TASS via ZUMA
Cameron Manley

Russia carried out its largest missile attack in weeks on Ukraine on Thursday, targeting energy facilities in what officials say is part of the first new air campaign against the Ukrainian power grid since last winter. Power cuts were reported in five Ukrainian regions, along with multiple civilian deaths.

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But beyond the significance of the casualties and targets, experts are also pointing to the weapons employed. An attack in Kupyansk, in Ukraine's Kharkhiv region on Tuesday suggests that Russia has begun using a new missile system that exhibits formidable destructive potential and the ability to bypass Western air defense systems.

The Sept. 19 attack killed eight people. Oleg Sinegubov, the head of the local administration, provided a sobering account of the incident: “Two of the dead were volunteers who helped with evacuation efforts,” he said. “The occupiers cynically struck with the new Grom-E1 missile.”

The regional prosecutor's office later confirmed the missile type as the "Grom-1," which is essentially a modification of the X-38, a high-precision air-to-surface missile. This missile variant was officially integrated into the Russian Armed Forces’ arsenal in 2013, though it wasn't until 2019 that testing for the "Grom-1" was officially concluded.

Comparison with U.S. JDAM guidance module

The "Grom-1" missile boasts a range of 120 kilometers (75 miles). What sets it apart is its unique design: the bomb-rocket hybrid features deployable wings, which enhance both its range and accuracy. In contrast, its predecessor, the "X-38," only has a range of 40 km (25 miles). The Grom-1 also has the ability to circumvent advanced Western air defense systems located near the front lines, making it a useful asset for Russian forces.

This hybrid missile is equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead that varies in weight up to 480 kilograms (1,058 pounds). Russian state media has also claimed the existence of a thermobaric version of this missile, but this has not been independently verified.

Russian agencies have also drawn comparisons between the "Grom" and the U.S. military's JDAM, a guidance module used to upgrade unguided bombs. However, the Russian hybrid missile has yet to demonstrate that it has reached the same level of effectiveness and precision as the American guidance kit.

photo of debris after a missile attack including a billboard with an advertisement of a woman in a green dress

After a Russian missile hit near the central market in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk Region, eastern Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Ukrinform via ZUMA

Pinpointing with precision

Prior to this incident, the "Grom" missile had made only one appearance, when it was reported in March 2023 on the pro-Russian telegram channel "Military Informant." The official Russian government newspaper "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" later published a report heralding the use of the Grom missile, which it described as the "latest high-precision munition," during the war in Ukraine.

Other reports have suggested that a high-precision hybrid missile used by the Russian Air Force had fallen somewhere within Russian-controlled Donetsk. However, photographic evidence of the rocket debris has never definitively pinpointed the exact crash site.

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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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