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An optimal adaptive array receiver for use in groundbased optical communications is investigated. Kolmogorov phase screen simulations are used to generate realistic focal-plane distributions of the received optical fields in the presence of turbulence. The array detection concept reduces interference from background radiation by effectively assigning higher confidence levels at each instant of time to those detector elements that contain significant signal energy and suppressing those that do not. A simpler suboptimum structure that replaces the continuous weighting of the optimal receiver by a hard decision over each detector element is also described. It is shown that, for photon counting receivers observing Poisson distributed signals, performance improvements of up to 5 dB can be obtained over conventional single-detector photon counting receivers when observing turbulent optical fields in high background environments.