go to content

Combat Roles Could Soon Be Open To Female British Soldiers

Women are currently only allowed to apply for 80% of military jobs.

Posted on

This would bring Britain in line with Australian and American armies which have recently opened all military roles to women, allowing them to fight on the front line alongside men.

Women are currently banned from joining the Royal Armoured Corps and infantry ranks that would drive tanks and other armoured ground vehicles.

"The defence secretary (Michael Fallon) and I are united in wanting to see all roles in our Armed Forces opened up to women in 2016," David Cameron told The Sunday Telegraph.

"We've already lifted a number of barriers in our Armed Forces with the introduction of female submariners and women reaching the highest ranks in all services.

"We should finish the job next year and open up ground combat roles to women."

Women would begin training for combat roles as early as autumn next year if the changes go ahead.

Around 80% of military roles, largely as artillery, engineers and combat medics are currently open to women, since front line jobs were opened to women two decades ago.

The government is said to be ensuring that women, who make up around 10% of military personnel, will be fully aware of the new opportunities available to them.

But critics have expressed fears that women would not be able to cope with the physical pressure of combat and could ruin the cohesion of units in battle, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

Last year, Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander in Afghanistan, criticised the government's desire to open more roles to female soldiers, saying that women lacked the necessary "killer instinct" to fight close combat.

"Inclusion of women in the infantry is certain to result in a lowering of physical standards despite the inevitable denials that this will happen," he said, according to The Independent.

"This would damage the fighting capabilities of the armed forces. It would be harmful to the cohesion of the army because of the nature of the role."

Fallon, however said that the designation of military roles "should be determined by ability and not gender," according to the Daily Mail.

"Women are already allowed to serve on the front line but not where the primary aim is to 'close with and kill the enemy," he added.

A government report reviewing the potential psychological demands on women in combat is due next year.

Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at laura.silver@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.