As the technology associated with the development of solid-state drivers for inertial fusion energy (IFE) has evolved, increased emphasis has been placed on the development of an efficient approach for managing the waste heat generated in the laser media. This paper addresses the technical issues associated with the gas cooling of large aperture slabs, where the laser beam propagates through the cooling fluid. It is shown that the major consequence of proper thermal management is the introduction of simple wedge, or beam steering, into the system. Achieving proper thermal management requires careful consideration of the geometry, cooling fluid characteristics, cooling flow characteristics, as well as the thermal/mechanical/optical characteristics of the laser media. Particularly important are the effects of cooling rate variation and turbulent scattering on the system optical performance. Helium is shown to have an overwhelming advantage with respect to turbulent scattering losses. To mitigate cooling rate variations, we introduce the concept of flow conditioning. Finally, optical path length variations across the aperture are calculated. A comparison of two laser materials (S-FAP and YAG) shows the benefit of a nearly a-thermal material on optical variations in the system.© (1995) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.