Female soldiers are to be allowed to serve on the frontline in combat roles with an announcement expected later today at the NATO summit.
Allowing women on the frontline would put UK policy in line with some countries like Australia and the US. Earlier this month the US announced it would open all jobs in combat roles to women following several years of research.
The proposed changes for the British armed forces would mainly apply to roles in the Infantry, Royal Marines, and Royal Armoured Corps and The Royal Air Force Regiment. Women in the British military can currently serve on the frontline, but are restricted to non-combat roles, and so not cannot join infantry and tank units.
Sky News Defence Correspondent Alistair Bunkall said:
“There has been a review and this announcement has been expected for some time, I gather it will happen if not today, then tomorrow. That last barrier preventing women from holding almost any role in the British military will be removed. It is a step forward for equality in the forces and brings the British military in line with their counterparts in America, Israel and other countries.”
Downing Street released the following statement:
“This is something we have been consulting on for a while and an announcement will be made in due course.”
Fears have been raised that women will be unable to cope with the physical demands of close ground combat operations. Fallon told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme:
“Women can fight just as effectively as men. There’s a small piece of work to be done, but I think army selection should be done on the basis of ability, from now on, and not on the basis of gender.”
Fallon denied that training regimes would be made less tough:
“It’s not weakening at all. I think we can improve the way we conduct physical training. We have got to make sure that the physical training and the tests involved don’t discriminate against women, but equally don’t damage the operational effectiveness of any unit. We need to make sure that the training is properly adapted to the different physiology of women and we do as much as possible to protect their long-term health and safety.”
More was written in an earlier article, analysing the roles played by women in combat.