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UK government lifts ban on women serving in Royal Navy submarines
LONDON (AP) ' Women will be allowed to serve on submarines for the first time in Britain's history, the country's defense secretary announced Thursday, after research showed there were no health reasons to support the ban.
A small number of female officers who have volunteered will begin training next year and start serving on Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarines in late 2013, Philip Hammond said.
The decision comes on the heels of an 18-month review conducted by the Royal Navy looking at the health, social and technical issues of allowing women to serve on submarines.
While women have been allowed on board Royal Navy ships since 1990, they weren't eligible to be submariners because of concerns that higher levels of carbon dioxide in submarine atmosphere risked their health.
But the Ministry of Defense said recent research showed those risks were unfounded and "that there were no medical reasons for excluding women."
The defense secretary stressed that the armed forces must adapt rather than clinging to the past.
"We will value our history and tradition but we will not be slaves to them," Hammond said in a keynote speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London.
The change means the submarine service will be able to draw on the "the widest range of talent and skills" to recruit, Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery said.
"And it will give our women the same opportunities as men to enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career in the Submarine Service," he added in a statement.
The U.S. Navy announced a similar policy move last year, and the first female submarine officers are slated to report to their submarines at the end of this year.
Outside of existing officers, the first new class of British female submariners will be recruited and trained from 2014 on.
In addition to the Vanguard-class submarines, the Astute class will also take females on board starting in 2016 after necessary on-board accommodation modifications have been made, the defense ministry said.
It said over nine percent of Royal Navy personnel are female and that women have been on board Navy ships since 1990.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd