A novel type of electro-optic diffractive element is presented which can satisfy the requirements for a high space-time bandwidth deflector while providing for two-dimensional random access beam steering control. The basic device consists of a multichannel array of phase modulators fabricated using Lanthanum-modified lead zirconate titanate (PLZT) operating as a programmable diffractive optical element. Two-dimensional deflection control can be readily obtained by crossing two one-dimensional arrays. This device is useful for wavelengths in the visible to mid-IR range and is based on PLZT ceramic materials which can be readily mass-produced. It possesses the versatility and multifunctionality of liquid crystal based optical phased array systems while allowing for very fast switching speeds with good thermal stability. We present a brief comparison of this novel deflector with other scanning technologies and outline the benefits and trade-offs of the PLZT-based device. Experiments on 16- and 32-channel arrays with full wave voltages less than 400 volts demonstrate continuous lateral beam steering control of a HeNe laser beam. We also demonstrate full deflection control with a minimum number of control lines using a modified deflector arrangement. And we present measurements showing sub- microsecond switching speeds from such PLZT-based phase modulators. Mature versions of this type of scanner will find use in a wide variety of applications including 2-D and 3-D laser displays, laser communications, and LIDAR systems.© (1997) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.