David Wright

Co-director and senior scientist

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Dr. Wright received his PhD in physics from Cornell University in 1983, and worked for five years as a research physicist. He was an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Fellow in International Peace and Security in the Center for Science and International Affairs in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a Senior Analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. He is a Fellow of the American Physics Society (APS) and a recipient of APS Joseph A. Burton Forum Award in 2001. He has been at UCS since 1992. Areas of expertise: Space weapons and security, ballistic missile proliferation, ballistic missile defense, U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons policy. David also blogs on the Equation.

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David's Latest Posts

North Korea’s Latest Missile Test

Various sources are reporting that North Korea test-launched two ballistic missiles tonight on lofted trajectories.

One of the missiles is reported to have reached a maximum altitude of 910 km (570 miles) and splashed down at a range of 450 km (280 miles) from the launch point. This missile would have had a burnout speed of about 3.74 km/s with a loft angle of 81.5 degrees, and a flight time of about 17 minutes.

If flown on a standard trajectory with the same payload, that missile would have a maximum range of about 1,900 km (1,200 miles).

This would classify the missile as medium range (1,000 to 3,500 km).

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Why Did the Pentagon Conduct a Treaty-Violating Test?

On Sunday, the Pentagon announced that it had launched a Tomahawk cruise missile with a range “more than 500 kilometers” from a ground-based launcher at a test site in California.

The purpose, it said, was to use “data collected and lessons learned from this test” to “inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”

The real purpose of the test, however, appears to be to underscore the US decision to leave the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by conducting a launch that would violate the terms of the treaty. INF prohibited all US and Russian land-based missiles, or launchers for those missiles, with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km. Read more >

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Donald Trump: Serious about Arms Control?

President Trump seems to understand a major lesson of the past 70 years of the nuclear age: Unconstrained arms races are dangerous and massively expensive.

The Washington Post reports that Trump “has ordered his administration to prepare a push for new arms-control agreements with Russia and China after bristling at the cost of a 21st-century nuclear arms race.” If one country builds more weapons to feel secure, this can cause other countries to feel less secure and lead them to build more weapons in response. This cycle is the classic arms race. Read more >

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North Korea’s Missiles and the US-NK Summit

In April 2018, shortly before last June’s summit with President Trump, North Korea announced it was discontinuing its flight testing of ballistic missiles. For over a year now, it has not conducted any missile tests.

This represents a big change. In the five years 2013 to 2017, North Korea launched more than 80 flight tests of 10 different missiles, or an average of 16 flight tests per year. In 2017 alone, it launched 20 tests of seven types of missiles, including the successful launch of two different long-range missiles. Read more >

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New Analysis: US Missile Defense Tests Lack Realistic Decoys

Rumor has it that the administration’s Missile Defense Review (MDR) may finally be released this week. As policy makers discuss its recommendations and consider expanding US missile defenses in various ways, they should have a realistic view of the capability of these systems—and their limitations.

There have been 18 intercept flight tests of the Ground-based Missile Defense (GMD) system through 2018. Contrary to some claims, these tests have not demonstrated that the missile defense system would be successful in intercepting incoming warheads under realistic conditions. Read more >

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