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underwater vehicles present difficult control-system design problems due to their nonlinear dynamics, uncertain models, and the presence of disturbances that are difficult to measure or estimate. In this paper, a recent extension of sliding mode control is shown to handle these problems effectively. The method deals directly with nonlinearities, is highly robust to imprecise models, explicitly accounts for the presence of high-frequency unmodeled dynamics, and produces designs that are easy to understand. Using a nonlinear vehicle simulation, the relationship between model uncertainty and performance is examined. The results show that adequate controllers can be designed using simple nonlinear models, but that performance improves as model uncertainty is decreased and the improvements can be predicted quantitatively.