The Office of Naval Research awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a contract, worth $2.6 million, which aims to improve the engine of the US Mark 48 heavyweight torpedo, originally designed to sink deep-diving Soviet submarines and surface ships.
According to Bryan Clark, a former submarine officer and analyst with the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the idea behind extending the range of the torpedo is to keep valuable submarines away from potential targets by using aircrafts to target data.
He said: “Through third-party targeting, you can use it as a standoff weapon.
“If you can extend that range to 50 or more miles, you can attack submarines without your sub having to hold that target organically with its sensors.”
Mr Clark noted at those ranges, it is less likely the submarine could be located by firing a torpedo.
He went on: “If you have 30 torpedoes onboard, you may only have one or two targets within range of your sensors and weapons.”
The concept behind the extension is similar to the one adopted by the surface Navy.
An aircraft such as F-35 or E-25 detects a hostile track by relying on data to the surface ship, which then neutralise the hostile with a long-range missile, such as an SM-6.
The strategy allows ships to remain hidden by not turning on big air-radars because they rely on airborne sensors for targeting the data.
However, Mr Clarke said the same strategy applied to submarines could have some issues.
He claimed torpedoes fired at long ranges are much slower at reaching their targets.
This means the US Navy will have to figure out how to relay targeting updates to the torpedo as it travels towards the enemy ship from so far away.
In the meantime, the US President’s administration has completed initial draft plans for several new low-yield sea-launched nuclear weapons intended to deter potential attackers and add new precision strike options to those currently possible with the existing arsenal.
The final requirements for both a low-yield sea-launched nuclear cruise missile and long-range sub-launched low-yield warhead are still in development but Pentagon officials claimed the process has recently taken several substantial new steps forward.
The Trump administration, led by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis claims such warheads should be placed on submarines to ensure Russia realises it cannot get away with a limited nuclear attack on a US ally.