A volumetric thermal grating (VTG) is a spatially periodic refractive index variation in a volume of gas or liquid, generated by imaging interference fringes into the medium. The fringes can be created and varied by steering laser write beams electronically with acousto- optic (A-O) cells. While the wavelength of the write beams is chosen to be absorbed by a dopant in the VTG medium, a read beam at an off-resonance wavelength can be manipulated by diffraction from the resulting index grating. Potential applications include resonator and amplifier optical isolation prepulse suppression in high-gain amplifiers, noninertial steering of large-diameter laser beams, transfer of phase information between beams to facilitate adaptive optics, Q-switching of chemical lasers, and line selection in broadband lasers. In this paper, we present a preliminary assessment of VTG utility for these optical systems applications by quantitative analysis of the medium density dynamics. In Section 2, we derive a relation between A-O acoustic frequency uncertainty and VTG pointing/steering uncertainty, which also scales desired steering range to required A-O frequency modulation bandwidth. In Section 3, we discuss the temporal response of a doped rare-gas VTG medium. Section 4 is an assessment of VTG beam-steering performance potential using available technology.