General Sir Peter Wall, who will lead the armed forces review into whether to lift the ban on women serving in combat roles, has said the key issue in determining the outcome would be the "delivery of operational effectiveness".
The review into whether to lift the bar on women joining the infantry and the Royal Armoured Corps was brought forward by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
The Ministry of Defence had been required to review its existing policy on the deployment of women by 2018 under EU equality laws.
The former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt, has told ITV News he believes female soldiers should not be allowed to serve in front line roles.
Gen Dannatt, who led the Army from 2006 to 2009, said combat situations in which units attack with "violence, bayonets and machine guns" are "not the right place" for women to be.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said the armed forces must review the role female soldiers can play in combat situations to ensure women know the organisation is "fully open" to them.
Mr Hammond said the reality of the armed forces is "very different" from the "macho image" that he said many continue to apply to it.
But he said the restrictions on women in combat situations is "something we have to look at again", in part because of the "message" it sends to women "who might be looking to join other parts of the military".
It is a move that the head of the army, General Sir Peter Wall, has already suggested might make the armed forces "look more normal" - and it seems Defence Secretary Philip Hammond now agrees.
He has ordered a review of whether women should be allowed into combat to start immediately, and wants a report on his desk by the end of the year.
Earlier he told journalists that if the US, Australia and even France had women in combat roles, it was time for Britain to look at the policy again.
Currently, there are more than 16,000 women in the armed forces but about 30 per cent of roles are closed to them.
The Defence Secretary says he does not envisage the numbers who apply will be that large but suggests it is time to send a signal that the army is open "to all who can meet the standards required".
It is also true that if the change does go ahead next year, it will not harm the Government's attempts to appeal to women voters in the run up to the General Election.
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Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois said he was "proud" of the work done by soldiers helping a flood-hit community as they reinforce a dam protecting an electricity substation.
Around 20 troops from 7th Battalion The Rifles, known as 7 Rifles, were stacking up sandbags in submerged fields in Reading, Berkshire, where the River Kennet has burst its banks.
Responding to a coroner's call for a review of mental health procedures for soldiers at the inquest of a Pte Lee Bonsall, who was found hanged at his home in 2012, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said:
Every suicide is a tragedy and our thoughts remain with the families of all those who have sadly taken their own lives. Mental health of our personnel and veterans is a top priority for the Government that is why we have committed £7.4 million to ensure there is extensive mental health support in place for everyone who needs it.
Medical experts and clinicians working in our Armed Forces and across the NHS are committed to providing the best possible care to all those that have bravely served their country and to ensuring a smooth transition from the Armed Forces into the NHS.
This includes improving the transfer of medical records on discharge to provide better continuity of care and providing mental health assessments prior to discharge. Letters are also included in the NHS medical notes to their GP stating they have been under military medical care and by keeping their NHS number so they are identifiable and remain visible in NHS systems.
The mother of Private Lee Bonsall who was found hanged at his home in 2012 has welcomed a coroner's call for a review of mental health procedures for soldiers.
Karen Bonsall told ITV News it was "amazing news" which "proves what [we] have said all along and all the recommendations we asked for".
As he recorded a narrative verdict at an inquest into the former soldier's death, Coroner Mark Layton said he intended to write to the Ministry of Defence to suggest that the procedure for arranging psychiatric appointments is reviewed.
A former soldier found hanged at his home in 2012 gave no indication he was intending to self-harm and was making future plans with his wife, an inquest has found.
Recording a narrative verdict, the coroner concluded that there was a clear link between Lee Bonsall's tour of duty in Afghanistan and subsequent mental health difficulties.
The inquest heard the 24-year-old asked to be discharged from the army in October 2006 but was not assessed until May 2007. He was subsequently discharged in September 2007.
Coroner Mark Layton said he proposed a narrative conclusion as he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Bonsall's death can be recorded as a suicide.
A coroner called for a review of mental health procedures for soldiers as he recorded a narrative verdict at the inquest of a former soldier who was found hanged at his home in 2012.
Lee Bonsall, 24, served in the Army for three years before being discharged in 2007.
His family believe he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after a friend he was serving with in Afghanistan was shot dead.
Coroner Mark Layton said he intended to write to the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans to suggest that the procedure for arranging psychiatric appointments is reviewed.
He also said he planned to ask that the Army "reviews its practice for passing medical records to civilian [doctor's] surgeries".