19 December 2014
Last updated at 05:00
Women could be allowed to serve in British infantry units for the first time by 2016, the BBC understands.
An Army review of the ban on women serving in close combat is continuing, having been commissioned by ex-Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
But military sources have told the BBC there is now a “real desire” among ministers to end the restrictions.
However, concerns remain about whether women can cope with the physical demands of an infantry soldier.
There are also concerns that if they become injured, this could lead to claims for compensation.
Currently women can serve on the front line, but not where the primary aim is to “close with and kill the enemy”.
This means women are not permitted to serve in the infantry or armoured corps where they could be involved in close combat.
Female aircrew have been flying combat missions over Iraq, and this year the Royal Navy allowed women to serve on submarines for the first time.
Women soldiers have also been on the frontline in Afghanistan although in support roles, such as medics and bomb disposal experts.
BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said the review on women serving in the infantry, commissioned last May, has put to rest some of the old arguments that barred them, such as that women lack the killer instinct and could undermine a unit’s cohesion, affecting its ability to fight.
A defence source told the BBC the wellbeing of British personnel is of the utmost importance, but there is now genuine hope that all areas of the armed forces will be opened up to women, following further research conducted as part of the Army review.
The Ministry of Defence says it needs to carry out more research but military sources say that if those concerns are addressed, women could eventually serve in units like the infantry.