Women in the United Kingdom will be allowed to fight in combat roles in the infantry and tank units from November, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced.
The prime minister gave the order following a recommendation from the chief of the general staff, Gen Sir Nick Carter, that the ban on women serving in ground close combat roles should be lifted.
The Ministry of Defence has conducted a review over the past two years of whether women would be able to meet the physical requirements of serving in units such as the infantry and tanks. It found that there was no evidence that women would not be able to cope.
The first women will start in frontline combat roles in the Royal Armoured Corps from November. This will extend to all areas of the armed forces by the end of 2018, including the infantry, air force, marines and some special forces.
Speaking at a Nato summit in Warsaw, Cameron said:
“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 prime minister’s spokesman said the government was encouraging women to apply for such roles, but that it expected “reasonably low numbers” to apply at first.
The current physical requirement is to run eight miles in boots while carrying 25kg (55lb). This is to be changed, which may prompt accusations that standards are being lowered in order to accommodate women.
The MoD believes the new requirements will be equally tough and better reflect the reality of contemporary conflicts, following recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Read more over on The Guardian)