The UK is set to lift ban on women serving in ground close combat roles in the British Armed Forces from this year.

The decision follows extensive research into three key areas of potential risk to women on the front line, which includes musculoskeletal injury, psychological issues and impaired reproductive health.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The Chief of General Staff has recommended that we lift the ban on women in ground close combat, a view that has been supported by the other service chiefs.

"I have always wanted roles in our armed forces to be determined by ability, not gender."

"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.

Women will be able to apply for combat roles in a phased approach over the next three years.

Female soldiers will be allowed to join certain units of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) from November this year.

This will be reviewed after six months, before being expanded to other units of the RAC. Infantry, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force Regiment jobs will be opened to women by the end of 2018.

The Interim Health Report (IHR) revealed that women joining the RAC would have less likelihood of injury than other ground close combat roles.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "I have always wanted roles in our armed forces to be determined by ability, not gender.

"Women have already given exemplary service in recent conflicts, working in a variety of highly specialised and vital roles. By opening all combat roles to women, we will continue to build on these successes and improve the operational capability of our military."

Image: Women already operate on the front line in a variety of roles. Photo: Crown Copyright.