UK — Women to be allowed to serve on submarines

Women are to be allowed to serve on sub­marines for the first time in the Roy­al Navy’s his­to­ry, the Sec­re­tary of State for Defence Philip Ham­mond announced today.

Nuclear sub­ma­rine HMS Van­guard arrives back at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, Scot­land, fol­low­ing a patrol [Pic­ture: Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer Air­man (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Thomas McDon­ald, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The deci­sion comes fol­low­ing an 18-month review con­duct­ed by the Roy­al Navy look­ing at the legal, oper­a­tional, health, social, tech­ni­cal and finan­cial issues of allow­ing women to serve on submarines. 

Women had pre­vi­ous­ly been exclud­ed from sub­mariner roles due to con­cerns about high­er lev­els of car­bon diox­ide in a sub­ma­rine atmos­phere being a risk to female health. But recent research by the Insti­tute of Naval Med­i­cine showed that these risks were unfound­ed and that there were no med­ical rea­sons for exclud­ing women from ser­vice on submarines. 

Defence Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said: 

“I am pleased that women will now have the same oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve on board our sub­marines, car­ry­ing out vital tasks main­tain­ing Britain’s defences around the clock, across the world. 

“The Roy­al Navy has always been at the fore­front of inno­va­tion, and this deci­sion rep­re­sents anoth­er step in its dis­tin­guished tra­di­tion of recog­nis­ing the con­tri­bu­tion of its peo­ple and mak­ing the very best use of the tal­ent from which it can recruit.” 

The first female sub­mariners are expect­ed to take up their posts towards the end of 2013. Ini­tial­ly this will be a small num­ber of female offi­cers — vol­un­teers who will begin train­ing next year for ser­vice on the Van­guard Class of Tri­dent sub­marines. The first female rat­ings will be recruit­ed and trained from 2014. 

“This care­ful­ly con­sid­ered deci­sion will allow the Sub­ma­rine Ser­vice to draw on the widest range of tal­ent and skills of our peo­ple.”
Vice Admi­ral Charles Montgomery

Women will also be able to serve on Astute Class sub­marines from 2016 when the nec­es­sary mod­i­fi­ca­tions to on-board accom­mo­da­tion have been made. 

The Sec­ond Sea Lord, Vice Admi­ral Charles Mont­gomery, said: 

“Our pri­ma­ry objec­tive in the Roy­al Navy is main­tain­ing our oper­a­tional effec­tive­ness both now and in the future. 

“This care­ful­ly con­sid­ered deci­sion will allow the Sub­ma­rine Ser­vice to draw on the widest range of tal­ent and skills of our peo­ple — those in ser­vice and those yet to join. It will there­fore enable us to fur­ther con­sol­i­date our oper­a­tional suc­cess, and it will give our women the same oppor­tu­ni­ties as men to enjoy a ful­fill­ing and reward­ing career in the Sub­ma­rine Service.” 

Cur­rent­ly, more than nine per cent of Roy­al Navy per­son­nel are female, approx­i­mate­ly 3,420. Women have been serv­ing on board Roy­al Navy ships since 1990. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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