UK: Women to Serve in Submarines for First Time in 110-Year Royal Navy’s Submarine Service History

Women to Serve in Submarines for First Time in 110-Year Royal Navy’s Submarine Service History

For the first time in the 110-year history of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service women are to serve at sea.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond today announced that female sailors will go to sea with the Silent Service by the end of 2013 – with the first volunteers beginning their training next year.

Although women have been serving at sea since 1990 – and make up nearly one in every ten Royal Navy personnel – submarines have remained a male preserve on health grounds.

Concerns about higher levels of carbon dioxide in a submarine’s atmosphere carrying risks to women’s health ruled them out of service in Britain’s fleet of nuclear boats.

But recent research by the Institute of Naval Medicine in Gosport showed that these risks were unfounded and that there were no medical reasons for excluding women from service in submarines.

That research came as part of an 18-month review conducted by the Royal Navy looking at the legal, operational, health, social, technical, and financial issues of allowing women to go to sea with the Silent Service.

The Vanguard class of nuclear deterrent boats will be the first to carry female submariners.

Initially this will be a small number of officers – volunteers who will begin training next year and will take up their posts towards the end of 2013. The first female ratings will be recruited and trained from 2014.

Women will also be able to serve in Astute-class hunter killer submarines from 2016 when the necessary modifications to the state-of-the-art boats’ accommodation have been made.

Announcing the decision to allow women to serve in submarines, Mr 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.”

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery – the Royal Navy’s head of personnel and training – added:

“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.”

The original decision not to allow women to serve in submarines was taken back in 1993 and has been reviewed periodically since.

Following the recent 18-month review, medical evidence shows that there is no bar to women serving on submarines, although pregnant submariners will not be able to serve at sea for health and safety grounds because of the risk to their unborn child.

Naval Today Staff, December 09, 2011; Image: royalnavy