Royal Air Force becomes first branch of British military to open every role to women

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The RAF has become the first branch of the British military to make every role available for both men and women.

It will now accept applications by women to join the 2,000 strong RAF Regiment in it’s ground-fighting team, patrolling and protecting RAF bases and airfields.

The announcement follows last year’s decision to lift the ban on women serving in close combat roles.

BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said the moment is ‘significant’ because women can now apply for any RAF position, including as a fighter pilot.

Despite the move, Beale said it’s ‘unlikely’ there’ll be a flood of applications, as women make up just 10 per cent of the entire air force.

The historic change to hundreds of years of British military tradition follows years of extensive study on whether women are fit for the strain of combat.

However, the news has been met with some concern, with some critics arguing that the current effectiveness of the military could be damaged, and that men and women form relationships that could disrupt close-knit groups.

Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan told BBC News he ‘vehemently’ disagreed with the changes.

The former commander said he had ‘concerns’ that women were more likely to suffer long-term injuries than men, which would lead to additional expenses for compensation.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Kemp made reference to research that he said showed women sustained twice as many serious injuries as men during military training. 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.”

Judith Webb, a former major in the British Army, disagreed with the concerns, claiming that ‘the proof is in the research’.

“We want to promote diversity and get the best people, and if we have got women who want to do it, who are capable of doing it – then of course they should be able to do it.”

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