We present a theoretical investigation of a mode locked laser that has a semiconductor optical amplifier (SOS) in its ring cavity. A mode-locked train of narrow pulses is obtained by combining nonlinear polarization rotation in the SOA and a polarization filter whose polarization axis is set such that the tail of optical pulses is removed in each cavity round-trip. The pulse narrowing process is demonstrated numerically and good qualitative agreement with experiments in our previous work is achieved. The pulse performance is largely determined by the ultrafast SOS gain dynamics and the cavity dispersion. Our simulation shows that the laser can produce a pulse train of subpicosecond pulsewidth at a repetition rate of 28 GHz for a moderate SOA current level. We observe that the laser can switch itself on or off depending on the initial pulse. © 2005 IEEE.