Aluminum nitride has been ablated with a KrF excimer laser (248 nm) at fluences from 1 to 60 J/cm2. Ablation depth, emission spectra and photothermal beam deflection were detected as a function of fluence. An ablation rate of 0.2 μm/pulse was achieved above 30 J/cm2 in vacuum. Ablation rate decreased with decreasing, fluence. Irradiated surfaces have a conductive metallic layer of reduced aluminum nitride. At low fluences, the metallic surface layer was spotty within the area of the laser beam. Below the fluence threshold for producing the metallized surface, emission spectra and photothermal beam deflection were still detected. Emission lines from Al, Al+ and Al-N were observed. Photothermal deflection data was used to calculate supersonic velocities for shock waves propagating from the sample surface. Shock waves resulted from rapid heating near the surface and expansion of ablated material from the laser spot.