The British Army is re-writing fitness tests to ensure women qualify for frontline units, a report has revealed.
In December Prime Minister David Cameron revealed that the government planned to overhaul army rules that restrict women to support roles on the frontline and pledged that women will be able to serve in such roles form the end of 2016.
The ruling has prompted a review of the Army’s fitness test requirements.
Physical differences between men and women will no be recognised in the tests as Defence Secretary Michael Fallon prepares to sign off on plans to allow women to join close combat units, including the infantry and armoured regiments.
The study, driven by Fallon, found that twice as many women were likely to suffer musculoskeletal injuries during initial training.
Sources told the Sunday Times the modified tests are not meant to “satisfy a gender requirement” but will be an attempt to “drive down” the number of women injured.
The study found: “We know that women are built differently to men — higher fat mass, less muscle mass, less cardio output, which leads to greater/quicker energy deficit than men and they have to work harder to achieve the same output.”
Currently just under 16,000 women serve in Britain’s armed forces and those in the Army have restricted frontline roles in non-combat positions such as intelligence specialists, artillery spotters, logisticians and signallers. Women are also restricted from other soldiers roles in providing logistics and medical assistance.
After Cameron’s announcement last year Alan West, the former First Sea Lord said that women are not suited for ground assault roles saying he wants Britain to have “forces that can win”. He claimed female soldiers lack “killer instinct” and that male soldiers do not need “distractions looking after women”.
Speaking to Sky News he said he has “some nervousness about women in the infantry and the Royal Marines, where they have to actually advance on the enemy, climb into a trench and fight and kill each other…not because there aren’t some women who can do that but, when you are looking at averages, women have one-third less upper body strength.”