Frontline combat ban on women in UK armed forces to be lifted
The long-standing ban on women soldiers taking part in frontline combat fighting is to be lifted, David Cameron has announced.
The Prime Minister said he had accepted a recommendation by the head of the Army, General Sir Nick Carter, that women should be able to serve ground close combat (GCC) roles.
Arriving in Warsaw for the Nato summit, Mr Cameron said: "I agree with his advice and have accepted his recommendation. I have asked that this is implemented as soon as possible."
"It is vital that our armed forces are world class and reflect the society we live in. Lifting this ban is a major step.
"It will ensure the armed forces can make the most of all their talent and increase opportunities for women to serve in the full range of roles."
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that they would adopt a phased approach, starting with the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) which will begin taking women from November.
It will be followed over the next two and a half years by the infantry, the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment.
The MoD said they had decided to start with the RAC as research suggested there would be less likelihood of injury than in other ground close combat roles.
The MoD believes that operating armoured vehicles is likely to attract the highest number of women recruits who could eventually account for up to one in five applicants to the RAC.
The move follows extensive research into the potential risk to women serving on the frontline in terms of musculoskeletal injury, psychological issues and impaired reproductive health.
It will be followed by the introduction of a new set of "physical employment standards", to be in place by the end of 2018, which will set clear physical standards for all combat roles, covering men and women.
A Government source said: "There will be no lowering of standards to accommodate women. There will be exactly the same physical requirements on them as there will be on any other infantryman, RAF Regiment - whatever unit it may be."
Gen Carter said: "Women already operate on the frontline in a variety of roles and have done so with distinction in recent conflicts.
"By allowing women to serve in all roles, we will truly help to maximise the talent available to the Army and make the armed forces a modern employer."
The decision means the UK will join Israel, Australia and the United States among the countries that allow women to serve on the front line.