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Several sparse 2-D arrays for real time rectilinear volumetric imaging were investigated. All arrays consisted of 128/spl times/128=16384 elements with /spl lambda/ spacing operating at 5 MHz. Because of system limitations, not all of the elements could be used. From each array, 256 elements were used as transmitters, and 256 elements were used as receivers. These arrays were compared by computer simulation using Field II. For each array, beamplots for the on-axis case and an illustrative off-axis case were obtained. For the off-axis case, the effects of receive mode dynamic focusing were studied to maintain the beam perpendicular to the transducer face. Main lobe widths, side lobe heights, clutter floor levels, and pulse-echo sensitivities were quantified for each array. The sparse arrays, including a vernier periodic array, a random array, and a Mills cross array, were compared with a fully sampled array that served as the "gold standard". The Mills cross design showed the best overall performance under the current system constraints.