The Royal Air Force opens up its close combat roles to women for the first time today, marking a turning point in British Military history. It will be the only branch of the British Military to offer all available roles to both men and women.
The decision comes following a government announcement in July which confirmed that the ban would be lifted on women serving in close combat roles. Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary, said:
“Individuals who are capable of meeting the standards for the regiment will be given the opportunity to serve, regardless of their gender. This is a defining moment for the RAF.”
Currently, women make up only 10% of the Air Force as a whole. The move has caused controversy among serving members of the Forces, including senior officers who have expressed concerns about the injuries women may face whilst serving in close combat roles.
Col Richard Kemp is a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and believes that women are more likely to suffer long term injuries than men when serving. Kemp has suggested this will cause financial complications for the military, as an increase in large compensation payments could adversely effect budgets.
“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.”
He said: “If you can imagine the stresses that is going to put on a woman’s body over four years minimum – and many cases much longer – we will have some pretty severe problems for women.
“We will then undoubtedly see very, very significant compensation payments being made out of the defence budget. The nature of a woman’s body means that some of the injuries are going to be more significant in terms of ability to bear children and the like.”
On their Facebook page this morning, the Royal Air Force have welcomed the change with an an announcement that all roles were officially open for women:
‘Today marks a proud moment in the RAF’s history as we officially open up the roles of RAF Regiment Gunner and Officer to women. You can apply today!
So if you want to find out more and join the team who carry out a range of crucial roles to defend RAF bases and overseas air operations then take a look at the RAF Recruitment website or speak to your local Armed Forces Careers Office.’
You can find out more about applying to roles within the Royal Air Force here.
This news follows recent changes to the structure of the Royal Marines and Royal Navy, read more here.