We have recently developed a model of the optics of the underwater environment that includes the effects of scattering and absorption. The model is used to predict the image degradation that occurs in water. The model is applicable to standard light source illumination, range- gated illumination and laser line scan illumination. The model takes as input standard pictures and produces an output degraded images with the effect of scattering, absorption and detector noise added in. The model allows us to test against realistic images the performance of various image recovery and enhancement techniques and to compare the various active imaging systems that could be used in underwater identification systems. Using a previously developed sea surface and sky irradiance model developed at DREV, we are currently extending the model to handle underwater imaging from airborne platforms by a multi-pulse laser bathymetry system and by a range gated laser-imaging system.© (1999) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.