A ban on women serving in close combat roles in the British military has been lifted by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Women were previously able to serve on the front line, but not where the primary aim was to “close with and kill the enemy” – ruling them out of serving in the infantry or armoured corps.
The PM confirmed the move at a Nato summit in Warsaw, Poland on Friday.
It follows a government review which recommended the ban should be lifted.
In lifting the ban Mr Cameron has accepted a recommendation from the head of the Army, General Sir Nick Carter.
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 opening of roles for women in close combat are expected to be phased, initially with positions in cavalry and armoured units and then to the infantry.
Concern over the issue had centred on whether women had the physical capability to withstand the demands on their body that some of the roles will require.
One of the easier tests for the infantry, for example, involves recruits completing an eight-mile march in under two hours while carrying a backpack weighing 55lbs (25kg).