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This paper provides a framework for the analysis of error rate performance of maximal ratio combining multichannel reception of coherent linearly modulated systems over frequency-selective fading channels. Expressions for the error probability are developed, and the special cases for which closed-form or acceptable efficient numerical solutions are possible are delineated. A new efficient and accurate recursive method for the Ricean fading main resolved path case is presented for coherent quadrature amplitude modulation constellations. The effect of automatic gain control error on analysis of modulation schemes is demonstrated. Finally, numerical examples based on the maritime high-data-rate channel model are provided to demonstrate the usefulness of the framework.