A Harrier jump jet that has stood at Surbiton air cadet headquarters since 2005 is to be removed over health and safety fears.

The RAF says the iconic jet, which is believed to have seen action in the Falklands War, is too old and the service plans to recycle its parts.

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The squadron celebrates its 70th anniversary in front of the Harrier, 2011

Elaine Chapman, treasurer at 1034 Surbiton squadron, said: "This is devastating news for the staff and cadets of the squadron.

"The airframe has a significant history including active service in the Falklands War and training many, many apprentices at RAF Cosford.

"[The Harrier] has been an amazing addition to the squadron as both a gate guardian and a teaching aid for the cadets.

"It will have a huge impact on the motivation and morale of the cadets who are very proud to be her custodians."

Former Surbiton cadet James Manning, 24, who now lives in Aberdeenshire and even uses the jet's tail number as his Twitter handle, said: "I was down there when she was delivered.

"Once you start hacking apart an airframe it instantly loses its character.

"People don't get a sense of scale of the aircraft and all the fine nuances that make up that particular aircraft.

"It would just be a crime. I would have it in my garden - I wouldn't want to see it broken up.

"It has been a part of me since it turned up."

Having the Harrier on site had brought in "loads" of new recruits, he added.

Another cadet, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "We as cadets are very proud of it and feel it is very much part of our squadron.

"All of the cadets, including myself, are very upset about the decision."

The GR3 model Harrier made history nine years ago, as the only jet built in Kingston's Hawker factory in the 1970s to return to the borough.

When it arrived home in 2005 - in fully working order - it was lifted by crane from its transport truck and lowered into 1034 Squadron's grounds.

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The Harrier's arrival. Photo courtesy of Vicki Harris

The plane flew in regular service from 1976 to 1990, and served in every squadron of the RAF.

A similar aircraft, restored by its owner to "like-new" condition over 1,000 man-hours, recently sold at a private auction for more than £100,000.

An RAF spokeswoman said: "Sadly the Harrier outside 1034 Surbiton Squadron has become a health and safety hazard due to its age and rapidly deteriorating condition.

"With this and the safety of our cadets in mind, it is no longer possible to keep the aircraft in its current location.

"The squadron and the volunteers have looked after the aircraft very well, however, unfortunately because of its age, it’s time to remove it."

A replacement vehicle for the squadron may or may not be found, the spokeswoman added.

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The Harrier being winched into place. Photo courtesy of Vicki Harris

Tolworth and Hook Rise councillor Vicki Harris said: "I think that's a terrible bit of news. That's been very valuable for all those kids.

"So what if it's a bit old? People still love seeing Spitfires. It would be a great loss if it has to go."