RAF to open all roles to men and women in 'defining moment'

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon says gender parity will lead to more effective military

Prince Harry inspects an honour guard at RAF Honington in Suffolk
Prince Harry inspects an honour guard at RAF Honington in Suffolk

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has become the first military service to open up all roles to men and women.

Women can now apply to join the RAF's ground-fighting force after the Government lifted the ban on females serving in close combat roles.

The 2,000 strong RAF Regiment is deployed to protect bases and airfields across the world, and has sustained casualties in Afghanistan.

Carol Vorderman receives Lennox-Boyd Trophy at RAF Syerston

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the change would lead to a more effective military when he announced the move in July.

“Individuals who are capable of meeting the standards for the regiment will be given the opportunity to serve, regardless of their gender,” he said.

“This is a defining moment for the RAF.”

However Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said he was strongly opposed to plans to allow women to serve in the infantry from next year.

He told the BBC: “My concern is primarily in terms of physical capabilities and the effects that long-term stresses and strains of infantry training and operations will have on a woman's body.

“Once you have got through the selection, you then are subjecting yourself to a minimum of four years of intensive physical training day in and day out, which puts enough of a strain on a man's body.

“I think the reality is we will find many more women than men suffer injuries... and we will then undoubtedly see very significant compensation payments being made out of the defence budget.

“And the nature of woman's bodies means that some of the injuries are going to be more significant in terms of being able to bear children and the like.

“I am not a doctor, but I have certainly read up on this and that is a problem.”

But former British Army major Judith Webb argued women had been proven to be capable in such roles.

She said: “My concern has always been to ensure that research is carried out so that women know exactly what they are in line for.

“Being aware of our physical differences is an important aspect, but that is where I feel research has now been carried out.

“We want to promote diversity and get the best people, and if we have got women who want to do it, who are capable of doing it - then of course they should be able to do it.”

At present women make up 10% of the RAF.

PA

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in