This approximation consists of using ray optics to estimate the field on a surface and then integrating that field over the surface to calculate the transmitted or scattered field. This resembles the Born approximation, in that the details of the problem are treated as a perturbation.
In optics, it is a standard way of estimating diffraction effects. In radio, this approximation is used to estimate some effects that resemble optical effects. It models many interference, diffraction and polarization effects but not the dependence of diffraction on polarization. Since it is a high frequency approximation, it is often more accurate in optics than for radio.
In optics, it typically consists of integrating ray estimated field over a lens, mirror or aperture to calculate the transmitted or scattered field.
In radar scattering it usually means taking the current that would be found on a tangent plane of similar material as the current at each point on the front, i. e. the geometrically illuminated part, of a scatterer. Current on the shadowed parts is taken as zero. The approximate scattered field is then obtained by an integral over these approximate currents. This is useful for bodies with large smooth convex shapes and for lossy (low reflection) surfaces.
The ray optics field or current is generally not accurate near edges or shadow boundaries, unless supplemented by diffraction and creeping wave calculations.