Simulations of beam propagation in three-dimensional random media were used to study the effects of atmospheric refractive turbulence on coherent lidar performance. By use of the two-beam model, the lidar return is expressed in terms of the overlap integral of the transmitter and the virtual (backpropagated) local oscillator beams at the target, reducing the problem to one of computing irradiance along the two propagation paths. This approach provides the tools for analyzing laser radar with general refractive turbulence conditions, beam truncation at the antenna aperture, beam-angle misalignment, and arbitrary transmitter and receiver configurations. Simplifying assumptions used in analytical studies, were tested and treated as benchmarks for determining the accuracy of the simulations. The simulation permitted characterization of the effect on lidar performance of the analytically intractable return variance that results from turbulent fluctuations as well as of the heterodyne optical power and system-antenna efficiency.
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