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The maximum likelihood (ML) estimator demonstrates remarkable performance in direction of arrival (DOA) estimation for the multiple input multiple output (MIMO) sonar. However, this advantage comes with prohibitive computational complexity. In order to solve this problem, an ant colony optimization (ACO) is incorporated into the MIMO ML DOA estimator. Based on the ACO, a novel MIMO ML DOA estimator named the MIMO ACO ML (ML DOA estimator based on ACO for MIMO sonar) with even lower computational complexity is proposed. By extending the pheromone remaining process to the pheromone Gaussian kernel probability distribution function in the continuous space, the proposed algorithm achieves the global optimum value of the MIMO ML DOA estimator. Simulations and experimental results show that the computational cost of MIMO ACO ML is only 1/6 of the MIMO ML algorithm, while maintaining similar performance with the MIMO ML method.