A CO2 waveguide laser with programmable pulse profile, intended for use in coherent laser radar applications, has been designed and characterized. Gain and intracavity losses were measured and compared with known component losses and theoretical mode coupling efficiencies. A set of coupled rate equations was used for calculating the peak power. Input parameters in those calculations were the measured gain and loss together with published data on population relaxation. The observed Q-switched pulse was in reasonable agreement with the calculated pulse form. Average power and peak power could be fitted to simple empirical formulas. Q-switched and cavity-dumped pulses with a pulse length of 13 ns were demonstrated, limited only by the pulse generator. The pulse length is ultimately limited by the cavity round-trip time.