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Target detection and tracking systems using emitters of opportunity have received significant interest recently, especially those which exploit VHF and UHF broadcasts as signal sources in so-called passive radar systems. Here, the authors discuss an experimental system in the high-frequency (HF) band, where due to long-distance ionospheric propagation of radio waves in the 3-30-MHz spectrum, the illuminator may be located well beyond the line-of-sight. In this study, live data was recorded by a high dynamic range multi-channel digital receiver connected to a two-dimensional (L-shaped) antenna array, and signals from an uncooperative HF over-the-horizon (OTH) radar transmitter have been captured and analysed. As a preliminary step towards the development of a general HF-OTH passive radar system, the scope of this work is to compare the performance of conventional and adaptive spatial processing techniques in terms of their ability to cancel direct-wave interference and protect useful signal echoes to detect a small cooperative aircraft target. In particular, an alternative adaptive beamforming method specifically tailored to this application is proposed, and its practical performance is compared with classical and standard adaptive beamforming approaches. GPS data measured on-board the cooperative aircraft provided accurate ground truth of the flight path, enabling target profiles in bi-static range, Doppler frequency and direction-of-arrival (azimuth/elevation) to be calculated as a function of time. This information permitted the different processing schemes to be evaluated with a high degree of confidence. The experimental system and live data analysed are exclusively from the HF Radar program of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), Australia.