WASHINGTON — Torpedos are every surface sailor’s worst nightmare.

The damage inflicted on a surface combatant by a modern torpedo on a hull is so severe that it presents an existential threat to even the U.S. Navy’s famously tough ships.

That point was hammered home during last week’s sinking exercise (or SINKEX) inflicted on the former landing ship tank Racine, conducted as part of the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise.

In the video below, watch as the fast-attack submarine Olympia finishes Racine off with an MK-48 Advanced Capability torpedo. Rest in peace, USS Racine.

That's going to leave a mark.

The Office of Naval Research is working with Aerojet Rocketdyne to try and extend the range of the MK-48 by increasing the efficiency of the engine propelling the weapon.

The idea behind extending the range of the torpedo is to keep valuable submarines away from potential targets and allow a third party (a P-8 Poseidon overhead, for example) to relay the targeting data.

“Through third-party targeting, you can use it as a standoff weapon,” analyst Bryan Clark, with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in a recent interview. “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.”

At those ranges, it’s unlikely the submarine would give away its position by firing a torpedo, he said. Using this method, he added, the service can get the most out of the weapons packed on the attack boat.

“If you have 30 torpedoes onboard, you may only have one or two targets within range of your sensors and weapons,” Clark said, arguing that with third-party targeting, one could conceivably use the submarine as a submerged arsenal.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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