A compact laser system that removes surface coatings (such as paint, dirt, etc.) at a removal rate as high as 1000 ft.sup.2 /hr or more without damaging the surface. A high repetition rate laser with multiple amplification passes propagating through at least one optical amplifier is used, along with a delivery system consisting of a telescoping and articulating tube which also contains an evacuation system for simultaneously sweeping up the debris produced in the process. The amplified beam can be converted to an output beam by passively switching the polarization of at least one amplified beam. The system also has a personal safety system which protects against accidental exposures.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.