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The rapid growth of long-haul wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) fiber-optic telecommunications challenges lightwave system designers to increase the transmission capacity per fiber pair, while reducing the time to market. This makes it essential to have fast and accurate computer modeling tools to aid the systems design. There is a natural engineering tradeoff between simulation speed and accuracy; fast approximations tend to be inaccurate, while the exact treatment of the physical processes affecting transmission are nearly impossible to capture in a time-efficient algorithm. The proof of a successful tool development lies in the comparison of simulation results to transmission system measurements. In this paper, we discuss a new simulation technique based on careful evaluation of the key physical effects that produce system impairments. We show that this new approach can produce fast and accurate simulations of long-haul WDM transmission systems.