Optically induced electron–hole plasmas in silicon are used to perform radiation pattern tuning. The antenna is a slot loaded microstrip patch and the effect of illumination is shown to produce beam switching in the radiation patterns of certain modes while other modes are left unaffected. The structure is specifically designed to make the best use of currently available miniature laser sources to form a compact tunable package. Modelled and measured results for tuning of the radiation patterns and frequency response are presented. The effect of the losses incurred by the plasma along with the losses in the optically transparent ground plane are quantified in both simulation and measurement. This forms the basis for designing other types of optically tunable miniature antennas based on the structure presented.