Beaming Queen jokes Typhoon jets ‘are being sent off to chase the Russians’ on her first outing for five months

The monarch, 94, smiled as she shared the quip with an Aussie officer during a ceremony marking the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Her Majesty, who has been shielding at Windsor Castle, last appeared in public in November to mark Remembrance Sunday.

And it’s the first time she’s met with members of the public since Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s bombshell Oprah interview, as well as the month-long hospitalisation of Prince Philip.

But today she toured the CWGC Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey – and said she’s “delighted” to be out on engagements again.

The Queen wore a lime-green hat and matching jacket, with a brooch attached, as she chatted with RAAF service personnel this morning.

She asked one officer if the jets he worked with were “being sent off to chase the Russians”.

He replied: “That’s correct Ma’am.

“It’s a lot of fun for us.”

The British Air Force has, in recent months, intercepted an increasing number of Russian aircraft approaching UK airspace.

It comes against a backdrop of increasing tensions between Moscow and London.

Wednesday’s outing was only the Queen’s fourth engagement outside palace walls since Britain first locked down a year ago, and the first since she visited Westminster Abbey in November.

And it is also the first time she has been seen outside Windsor Castle since the Megxit split.

When the Queen arrived at Runnymede she was greeted by Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and George Brandis, High Commissioner for Australia.

During the service the Queen’s equerry Major Tom White laid a wreath on her behalf.

She also viewed panels bearing the names of Australian war dead and a display of fallen airmen and women in the memorial cloister.

The Queen then met with RAAF personnel stationed in the UK, telling one recent arrival: “It’s rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn’t it…

“I hope in the next couple of years you’ll be able to travel a bit more.”

The monarch then signed a commemorative document before departing.

More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation in 1921, fighting in conflicts ranging from the Second World War to others in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 11,100 losing their lives in service.

The Duke of Cambridge also marked the centenary with a video message praising the “service, courage and sacrifice” of men and women in the Royal Australian Air Force.

It was played at the RAAF centenary dinner being held in the Australian capital Canberra with guests featuring the country’s prime minister Scott Morrison.

The Duke, who was dressed in his uniform, said the service had “developed an outstanding reputation for resilience, innovation and dedication to duty”.

The Queen’s visit to the memorial comes just two weeks after Prince Philip was released from hospital after undergoing successful heart surgery.

The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, had been admitted to St Bartholomew’s Hospital hospital on February 17 after feeling unwell.

The duke underwent a successful procedure on a pre-existing heart condition at Barts on March 3, just three months before his 100th birthday, before returning to King Edward VII’s a few days later to recuperate and continue his treatment.

Following his discharge from hospital, the Duke was reunited with the Queen at Windsor Castle and was said to be in “good spirits”.

The Queen has carried out a number of engagements virtually during the pandemic, with all large gatherings cancelled.

A number of high-profile events have been staged in the grounds of Windsor Castle including a ceremony last summer where the Queen knighted veteran NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore.

She was last seen outside her Berkshire residence in November last year during the annual Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph.

And a few days before that, she wore a face mask in public for the first time during a poignant visit to the grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey to mark the centenary of his burial.

The Queen has spent lockdown three at Windsor Castle with a loyal band of staff dubbed HMS Bubble. 

She has not been able to see her family since the beginning of December because of the pandemic.

And she had been totally alone during the Duke of Edinburgh’s time in hospital. 

The couple, who have been married for 73 years, also received their first Covid-19 jabs in January.

During Philip’s spell in hospital the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plunged the monarchy into a crisis by accusing a member of the royal family of racism – not the Queen or Philip – and claiming that Meghan received no support with her mental health problems.

The Queen, 94, said in a statement afterwards that the issues are concerning, but that “some recollections may vary” and the matter is a family one that will be dealt with privately.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge defended the House of Windsor, saying during a recent visit to a school in east London: “We’re very much not a racist family.”