Britain is moving closer to allowing female soldiers to take a role in close combat on the front lines.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Friday he hopes women will soon be allowed to serve in infantry and armored units. He said women can fight as effectively as men.

He has ordered an 18-month review of the physical demands of combat and combat training to make sure female soldiers will not suffer long-term detrimental effects to their health.

Fallon's support for women in combat comes after a government-commissioned report suggested a change to the policy that has kept women out of close combat while giving them extensive roles in other aspects of military life.

Women already serve as fighter pilots, sailors and submariners but have not been permitted in close combat.