This paper presents initial experimentation conducted on optically activated Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) switches when operated at high electric fields. A Nd:YAG laser operating at 1.06 micrometers has been used to initiate conduction in three sizes of planar GaAs switches. The optical energy required for initiation and delays observed prior to collapse into the sustained current mode are discussed. In addition, dark dc and pulsed experimental characterization studies of ion implanted GaAs switches are presented. The switches were implanted up to approximately 1018 carriers/cm3 under the cathode contact region.