Both scattering and turbulence can effect the spatial coherence of short wavelength signals propagating through the open atmosphere. In this paper, the influence of forward scattering on heterodyne receiver performance is investigated, taking into account turbulence. It is shown that the effect of forward scattering is to reduce the effective heterodyne receiver area through spatial coherence degradation. A common approach to scattering as an attenuation phenomenon is not always valid. Generally, this approach underestimates the SNR. The accuracy of the attenuation approach depends on the ratio R of the actual receiver diameter to the scattering particle diameter. If R > 100, scattering is essentially large angle and the typical treatment of scattering as an attenuation effect is indeed justified. However, for small R, forward scattering is primarily small angle, field coherence is noticeably affected by forward scattering, and the attenuation approach is not valid. Further, it is shown that the SNR is improved when the ratio of the scattering particulate size to turbulence coherence diameter decreases. From the practical point of view, the most important result of this study is that small receivers use their area more effectively than large receivers. Thus, an array of several small receivers may perform better than one large receiver with the same total area. The treatment here is particularly relevant for coherent detection through clouds, fog, precipitation, and turbid media in general, including liquid media.
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