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A system and method is provided for using acoustical pulses generated from an airborne laser source to locate objects under water. An array of acoustic sensors, such as passive sonobuoys at the ocean surface, is deployed in known or determinable locations by aircraft. Each area surrounded by acoustic sensors comprises a search cell, within which sonar scattering data can be used to locate objects. Following sonobuoy deployment, the aircraft uses the laser to rapidly generate many laser-acoustic pulse sources within each search cell, which in turn generate spherical acoustic pulses traveling through the water. The acoustic sensors receive the acoustic pulses, either on a direct path or on a scattered path after the pulse strikes an underwater object. The sensors record the acoustic signatures of the received pulses and transmit data of the recorded acoustic pulses to a processor such as processor on a nearby ship. The processor transforms the data of the acoustic signatures, together with data of the known locations of the acoustic sensors and the locations of the laser-acoustic pulse sources, into data of a location of the underwater objects.