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An adaptive frequency-domain signal-processing technique for finding principal direction and spectral amplitude as a function of frequency without conventional beam forming is described mathematically. The technique, called Coherent Adaptive Processing Scheme (CAPS), is applicable to signals typical of many ocean science measurements. Results of successful CAPS analysis of shallow-water acoustic signals are presented. Potential real-time applications of CAPS to sensor systems are discussed. References to past applications to ocean waves are given.