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To improve the fault warning probability and the accuracy of the joint transform correlator for target recognition, a novel joint transform correlator (JTC) named ternary JTC is proposed. Mathematical analysis and computer simulation are performed to verify the feasibility and availability of the proposed method. The ternary JTC can be easily implemented with existed computer and optic-electronic circuits technology. Performance comparison between binary and ternary JTC is carried out and the results show that the ternary JTC has lower mismatching correlation peak value and more accurate discrimination ability than the binary JTC.