A sub-nanosecond passively Q-switched microchip laser is disclosed. It combines an optically pumped, passively Q-switched, high-frequency, microchip laser producing short pulses with an optically end-pumped amplifier producing high small-signal gain while pumped at low power. The microchip laser for emitting pulsed laser radiation is a monolithic body comprising two reflective elements defining an optical resonator for laser radiation, a laser gain medium, e.g., Nd:YAG, and a saturable absorber medium, e.g., Cr.sup.4+ :YAG placed inside said resonator. The optical amplifier stage for amplifying the laser radiation comprises an amplifying medium, e.g., Nd:YVO.sub.4. The microchip laser and the amplifier are optically end-pumped, preferably by high-brightness diodes. This entirely passive laser system directly produces .mu.J pulses at repetition rates of about 45 kHz.
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