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RAF to allow women in close combat roles ahead of schedule

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon made the announcement at the RAF Air Power Conference.

Close combat roles in the RAF’s ground fighting force will be open to women from September in “a defining moment”, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced.

The RAF Regiment was due to open its recruitment to women by the end of next year, alongside the Infantry and Royal Marines, but a recent review of work practices found in terms of risks, it was closer to the Royal Armoured Corps, which is already admitting women to its training ranks.

Speaking at the annual RAF Air Power Conference in London, Sir Michael said: “A diverse force is a more operationally effective force. So I’m delighted that the RAF Regiment will be open to recruitment to women from September.

“Individuals who are capable of meeting the standards for the regiment will be given the opportunity to serve, regardless of their gender.

“This is a defining moment for the RAF as it becomes the first service to have every trade and branch open to both genders.”

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said: “The RAF is committed to providing equal opportunity to all so it’s fantastic to be able to open recruitment to the RAF Regiment to women ahead of schedule.

“We want the best and most talented individuals to join the Air Force, regardless of their gender, race or background. A diverse force is a more effective force and we need the best people to deliver the important work we do, be it defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria or protecting Britain’s skies.”

The regiment protects RAF bases, aircraft and equipment at home and abroad.

In July last year, then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced the ban on women serving in “ground close” combat roles would be lifted following a recommendation from the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter.

On Tuesday, Tory peer Earl Atlee criticised the recruitment of women into the crack Royal Marines Commando unit as he spoke during a House of Lords debate.

The former frontbencher said it was “simply ridiculous” for ministers to claim combat effectiveness will not be reduced by having women serving as combat infantrymen in the Army.

Lord Atlee, who has served as a major in the Territorial army, added it was “even more ludicrous” to have female Royal Marines Commandos.

He told peers: “I have never ever in my entire life been fit and strong enough to be commando-trained.

“Until I turned 45 there were very few women who were as strong as me, so I cannot understand how you are going to have female Royal Marines Commandos without reducing combat effectiveness.”

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