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Given the knowledge of class probability densities, a priori probabilities, and relative risk levels, Bayes classifier provides the optimal minimum-risk decision rule. Specifically, focusing on the two-class (detection) scenario, under certain symmetry assumptions, matched filters provide optimal results for the detection problem. Noticing that the Bayes classifier is in fact a nonlinear projection of the feature vector to a single-dimensional statistic, in this paper, we develop a smooth nonlinear projection filter constrained to the estimated span of class conditional distributions as does the Bayes classifier. The nonlinear projection filter is designed in a reproducing kernel Hilbert space leading to an analytical solution both for the filter and the optimal threshold. The proposed approach is tested on typical detection problems, such as neural spike detection or automatic target detection in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. Results are compared with linear and kernel discriminant analysis, as well as classification algorithms such as support vector machine, AdaBoost and LogitBoost.