A SPECTACULAR piece of RAF history has returned to stand sentry over its former home.

A Tornado F3 jet fighter has become the new “gate guardian” for RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, watching over the base from which it once flew.

It replaces the old Gloster Javelin which used to fill the role but which found a new home at a Gloucestershire museum earlier this year.

The Tornado F3 began its life at Leeming in 1988, providing protection to UK airspace and squadrons from the base regularly intercepted Russian aircraft up until April 2008.

The type itself came the end of its lifespan in 2011, when it was replaced by the Typhoon, and since then the remaining F3s have been returning to Leeming to be run through a spares recovery programme run by BAE Systems.

The very last of them was picked from the programme and, after the valuable assets were stripped, the airframe was rebuilt and presented back to the base.

Station commander Group Captain David Bradshaw said: “Today is a really exciting day for all of us at RAF Leeming.

“Being able to take the last aircraft and placing it as a gate guardian will mean that all personnel coming onto Leeming in the future can reflect on our wonderful heritage and this wonderful aircraft.”

BAE Systems’ maintenance and upgrades manager Martin Marlow-Spalding said: “During its time in service, it has served its country really well as the main air defence aircraft for the UK.

“I’m delighted to see that the last one has been saved and as a gate guardian for Leeming it will act as a reminder of the squadrons which operated here.”