Women will be allowed to fight in close combat in the RAF for the first time this year

Women will be allowed close combat roles in the RAFBethany Clarke/Getty Images

Women in the Royal Air Force will be allowed to take close combat roles for the first time in history from September, defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced.

The RAF was due to open recruitment to women by the end of next year, alongside the Infantry and Royal Marines, but a review of work practices found in terms of risks, it was closer to the Royal Armoured Corps –which is already admitting women to its training ranks.

Sir Michael described the move as a "defining moment".

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Speaking at the annual RAF Air Power Conference in London, he said: "A diverse force is a more operationally effective force. So I'm delighted that the RAF Regiment will be open to recruitment to women from September.

"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 as it becomes the first service to have every trade and branch open to both genders."

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said: "The RAF is committed to providing equal opportunity to all so it's fantastic to be able to open recruitment to the RAF Regiment to women ahead of schedule.

"We want the best and most talented individuals to join the Air Force, regardless of their gender, race or background. A diverse force is a more effective force and we need the best people to deliver the important work we do, be it defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria or protecting Britain's skies."

Last year, then prime minister David Cameron announced the ban on women serving in close combat roles in the RAF would be lifted after a recommendation from the chief of general staff, General Sir Nick Carter.

Last week, it was announced that women would be allowed to fight in close combat roles in the infantry and tank units from November.

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