A FIGHTER jet used as a ‘guardian’ at the gates of defence giant BAE Systems has been taken down.

The Lightning I jet, which has stood outside the company’s Samlesbury site for more than 20 years, had to be removed because of the weather damage.

It is hoped a scale model will be created and placed at the site’s main entrance alongside a model of the Lightning II jet, also known as the F35, to represent the past, present and future of the company.

Paul Earnshaw, a spokesman for BAE Systems, said: “It was not really designed to be but on a pole and subjected to the Lancashire weather. It got into such a state that it was not reflecting our pride in it, so we are taking it down and looking to replace it with a full-scale model specifically designed to be a gate guardian outside the main entrance.”

Parts of the Lightning II jet are made at the Samlesbury and are mostly used by the military in the USA. The programme is worth over £1bn to UK industry.

The Lightning I was a supersonic jet fighter from the Cold War era.

It was known for its great speed and being the first aircraft in the world capable of supercruise — flying for a sustained amount of time faster than the speed of sound. It is hoped that the new models will be in place by the middle of 2014.

Mr Earnshaw said: “It is a lengthy process and and it is subect to planning permission. The Lightning II is key to the site’s bright future so it seems fitting to look at the possibility of having an old and new combination.”