A dielectric-wall linear accelerator is enhanced by a high-voltage, fast e-time switch that includes a pair of electrodes between which are laminated alternating layers of isolated conductors and insulators. A high voltage is placed between the electrodes sufficient to stress the voltage breakdown of the insulator on command. A light trigger, such as a laser, is focused along at least one line along the edge surface of the laminated alternating layers of isolated conductors and insulators extending between the electrodes. The laser is energized to initiate a surface breakdown by a fluence of photons, thus causing the electrical switch to close very promptly. Such insulators and lasers are incorporated in a dielectric wall linear accelerator with Blumlein modules, and phasing is controlled by adjusting the length of fiber optic cables that carry the laser light to the insulator surface.