A free-space optical communications system for transmitting data between an aircraft computer system (14) and a ground-based computer system (12). The system includes a pair of corresponding optical transmitters (36) and optical receivers (38) that transmit and receive optical signals transmitted between the two computer systems. Included within each optical transmitter is one or more light-emitting diodes (42) that produce optical signals corresponding to the data to be transmitted. A beam-forming prism (44) is bonded directly to the light-emitting diodes to direct the optical signal uniformly over a target area. The optical receiver includes one or more infrared windows (50) to reduce the amount of ambient light received by the optical receiver. A compound parabolic concentrator (64) collects light transmitted from the optical transmitter and directs the light onto an avalanche photodiode (66), which includes thermal bias compensation. An AC network couples the output signal of the photodiode to a transimpedance amplifier (70). An optional optical shroud (34) surrounds the optical transmitters and receivers to further reduce the amount of ambient light that is received by the optical receivers.