The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) could allow women to apply for ground close-combat roles in 2016, following the publication of a review.

The paper includes findings from a review undertaken by the UK Chief of the General Staff Sir Nicholas Carter.

Launched in May, the tri-service review has ended the long-held belief that mixed close ground combat units would have an adverse effect on cohesion between frontline soldiers, but called for more research into the physiological demands placed on troops in close combat roles before making a decision on lifting the current ban.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "Roles in our armed forces should be determined by ability not gender.

"I hope that, following further work on our training regimes and equipment, we can open up combat roles to women in 2016.

"This is a further sign of our commitment to maximising our talent in a year which has already seen the Royal Navy employ its first female submariners and two women climb to the highest-ever ranks in the RAF (Royal Air Force)."

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UK Defence Staff Chief General Sir Nicholas Houghton said: "Our aim must be to maximise the use of talent without compromising our standards or undermining capability.

"The final piece of work on physiological risks is vitally important in ensuring that ground close-combat roles would not be detrimental to the health of our service women."

"Roles in our armed forces should be determined by ability not gender."

Sir Nicholas Carter said: "If the research recommends that women are physiologically suited to close-combat roles, then we will be able to make as many ranks and roles open to all our soldiers, within a flexible career structure.

"But this process has to be carefully managed with no final decision coming until further research is complete, because we have discovered from operations in Afghanistan that there could be significant physiological risk to women serving in ground close combat."

The review urges the MoD to implement a physiological research programme to investigate how training regimes can be constructed to allow women to integrate safely, while protecting combat effectiveness.

It is recommended that programme should also deliver improved methods for conducting physical training that will have health benefits for the serving population of men and women

It is expected that an initial report will be submitted in 2016.

Image: The UK Ministry of Defence could open up ground close-combat roles to women soldiers in 2016. Photo: Crown copyright.