We describe an application of Plasma Assisted Chemical Etching (PACE) to rapid and controllable figuring and smoothing of optical surfaces without mechanical contact. This removes the usual constraints on the design of optical elements imposed by mechanical pro-cesses, such as substrate deformation, edge distortion and subsurface damage or contamination. This process employs a process originally developed to pattern microelectronic circuits by ion enhanced chemical etching of a solid (Si02, Si, Al, Au, etc.) through a relatively nonerodeable photolithographically patterned mask1,-2. The PACE process shapes the optical surface by removing material in a small area under a confined reactive gas plasma (a "puck") moved over this surface. Rates of removal of such processes in microelectronic applications are as high as 10 pm per minute and are very accurately controllable and repeatable. The removal "footprint" of PACE may be varied during the process and it inherently smooths or polishes while exposing a virgin surface free of process generated contamination and subsurface damage. It can operate in two modes: (1) in "contact" with the plasma, where the chemical reaction is driven by the kinetic energy given up at the reacting surface by short lived species such as ions; and (2) downstream of the plasma, by the stored energy freed at the surface by longer lived species such as excited metastable neutrals. Since control of this process is so important to this application, we sketch the generic physics and chemi hi stry1,2 of the PACE figuring and smoothing process, identifying the quantitative relations between the plasma and chemical parameters that control it:rf power density reactive gas pressure reactive gas flow the reactor surface temperatures and the pertinent transport chemistry.