REACT stands for Rapid Execution and Combat Retargeting. Development for this $632 million system began in the 1980s to replace the 1960s vintage nuclear command and control system. This new system replaced the complex electromechanical gear, as well as the notoriously smudged and unreadable teletype messages that had the potential to initiate nuclear war.
Incorporated into its design the REACT system would allow the Minuteman III missile to be retargeted against emerging mobile SS-24 and SS-25 missiles. Designed by Loral (now Lockheed Martin) and GTE Government Systems, the REACT system replaces the Command Data Buffer (CDB), a system that eliminated the procedure where Air Force technicians had to physically load new target tapes into each individual Minuteman Launch Facility, a process by which would take weeks to complete.
While the CDB provided the ability to be reprogrammed from the Launch Control Center capsule itself, it still relied largely upon pre-stored and formulated plans, and required about 20 hours to redirect the entire Minuteman force. The REACT system now makes it possible to retarget all of the missiles in less than 10 hours.
The REACT system not only reduces the time to retarget each of the Minuteman missile by 50 percent, but it also allows "on the fly" retargeting of each of the individual missiles. Based on the timing of the intelligence collection cycle and the enhanced ability to track mobile missiles, be it the SS-25 maneuvers in Russia or Scud missiles in Iraq or Iran, the REACT system allows nearly continuous retargeting.
Nuclear missiles can now be utilized like conventional artillery, shifted from one target to the next, and so on, over a period of days or weeks.
The REACT system layout has eliminated having the launch control officers sitting 12 feet apart at dual consoles. Currently they are sitting side by side, each facing a pair of monitors. Both administrative and operational messages are received via a form of REACT email, the old voice telephone alerts have been phased out.
REACT consists of two major components, the weapon system control element (WSCE) and the higher authority communications/rapid messages processing element, (HAC/RMPE). The WSCE controls all weapon system related functions. The HAC/RMPE integrates all higher authority communications and passes instructions over to the WSCE component for processing and coordination.
The REACT system was fully deployed at all active missile wings by July 31, 1996.