The ban on women soldiers serving on the front line is to be lifted, Downing Street has announced.
Prime Minister David Cameron has accepted a recommendation from the head of the Army, General Sir Nick Carter, that women should be allowed to serve in ground close-combat roles, said a No 10 spokesman.
Mr Cameron said: "I agree with his advice and have accepted his recommendation. I have asked that this is implemented as soon as possible.
"It is vital that our armed forces are world-class and reflect the society we live in. Lifting this ban is a major step. It will ensure the armed forces can make the most of all their talent and increase opportunities for women to serve in the full range of roles."
The Ministry of Defence has conducted reviews of whether women are physically strong enough to serve with the infantry on the front line and whether their presence would undermine the cohesion and morale of fighting units.
Women are currently banned from ground close combat roles. Under the Equality Act 2010, the armed forces are permitted to discriminate against women provided it can be shown to be a proportionate means of ensuring combat effectiveness.
Speaking in December last year, Mr Cameron said: "The Defence Secretary (Michael Fallon) and I are united in wanting to see all roles in our armed forces opened up to women in 2016.
"We've already lifted a number of barriers in our armed forces with the introduction of female submariners and women reaching the highest ranks in all services. We should finish the job next year and open up ground combat roles to women."
Israel, Australia and the United States are among the handful of countries that currently allow women to serve on the front line.