British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon (Photo: Reuters)
Britain might allow women to fight in close combat roles for the first time from 2016, the defence secretary said on Friday, in a move that would bring the British army into line with some other Western forces.
Britain's army currently allows women to serve on the front line, but does not let them join units whose main function is to engage and kill the enemy.
The United States, Australia and Canada are among those nations which already have women in close combat roles.
The Ministry of Defence said that women were a step closer to being permitted to join close ground combat units after a review established that mixed groups would not undermine troop cohesion. But it said further research was needed before their admission was given the green light.
That research would focus on exploring the physiological demands of close combat roles and its impact on women's health.
"I hope that, following further work on our training regimes and equipment, we can open up combat roles to women in 2016," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.