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Forward-looking (FL) catheter-based imaging systems are highly desirable for guiding interventions in intra- vascular ultrasound (IVUS) applications. One of the main challenges of array-based FL-IVUS systems is the large channel count, which results in increased system complexity. Synthetic phased-array processing with a reduced firing count simplifies the front-end and, hence, can enable 3-D real-time imaging. Recently, we have investigated dual-ring arrays suitable for IVUS imaging, in which the two concentric circular arrays are used separately as transmit (Tx) and receive (Rx) arrays. In this study, we present different optimized array designs based on dual and single circular rings which are suitable for synthetic phased-array processing with a reduced number of firings. To obtain an optimal firing set that produces low side lobes in the wideband response, we use a simulated annealing algorithm. In the simulations, we use 1.2-mm-diameter array configurations with 64 Tx and 58 Rx elements, a center frequency of 20 MHz and fractional bandwidths of 50% and 80%. The results show that optimized dual-ring arrays provide 8 dB improvements in peak near side-lobe level with no widening in the main lobe width when compared with full and other sparse co-arrays.