Five airlines have joined Israeli carriers in a pilot scheme begun in early March aimed at proving the efficiency of Israel’s unique system for positively identifying pilots of aircraft approaching its air space.

The five airlines from Canada, USA, France, Britain and Ethiopia will work with the Israeli carriers and a highly classified system developed by Elbit Systems and will allow Israeli air traffic control to verify that any incoming aircraft is not hostile.

The system requires pilots flying regularly to Israel to use a “code positive” smart card to verify their identity; a special control centre clears each aircraft.

The exact features of the system were not released. Sahul Mofaz the Israeli minister of transport said on 3 March that the new system would avoid the need for Israeli air force fighters to intercept aircraft that are positively identified, though any others would continue to be intercepted over the Mediterranean.