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RAF becomes first branch of British military to open every role to women

Category: Gender in the world 

The Royal Air Force's ground-fighting force has opened to women for the first time, making it the first branch of the British military to open every role to female service personnel. 


Applications from women to join the RAF Regiment will now be accepted after the ban in close combat roles was lifted.

The lifting of the ban on women serving in close combat units was announced by David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, in 2016 after service chiefs unanimously backed the move.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced in July that the RAF Regiment would be open to women from September ahead of the original 2018 schedule, saying: "A diverse force is a more operationally effective force."

The 2,000-strong RAF Regiment's main role is to patrol and protect RAF bases and airfields.

Women have already been allowed to serve in close combat roles in the Royal Armoured Corps, but it will be another year before they can seek to enter the Royal Marines, which has tougher physical demands.

The historic change to hundreds of years of British military tradition follows two years of study on whether or not women are fit for the rigours of combat and if they would undermine the Armed Forces' fighting power.



It overturns rules that women are banned from ground combat units “where the primary role is to close with and kill the enemy”.



The rule has meant women have been barred from Army infantry battalions, armoured regiments, the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment.

However, critics of the change have warned the fighting spirit and effectiveness of the military could be damaged, also pointing out that young men and women are bound to form relationships that could disrupt close knit units.


Official reviews have found that letting women in would not harm the bond of fighting units, which depended on good leadership.

Senior officers had argued that women have already found themselves in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the nature of the wars meant they were on the frontline even in non-combat jobs.




Tags: Royal Air Force's women British military

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