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Signal and clutter modelling and optimum performance evaluation for multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO)-based space-time adaptive processing radar is addressed. A signal model is developed to account for both code diverse MIMO (c-MIMO) and frequency diverse MIMO (f-MIMO), and a general framework on performance evaluation is presented to take into account various waveform configurations including phased array (PA), partially correlated MIMO and ideally orthogonal MIMO. The proposed framework evaluates the system performance through optimum processing (OP) gain and transmit array (TA) gain. The OP gain is in turn evaluated by the number of available space-time measurements (ASMs) that depends on the number of clutter degrees of freedom (clutter NDoF) relative to the system degrees of freedom (system NDoF). The waveform diversity introduced by MIMO, especially f-MIMO, could significantly enhance the OP gain by increasing the number of ASMs. Hence, in OP-gain-limited scenarios, where the overall performance significantly degrades despite the TA gains, the preferable configuration in terms of optimum performance would be ordered as f-MIMO, c-MIMO, and last, PA, that is, no MIMO.