Pentagon has announced that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat.
The move could open hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and elite commando jobs to women.
It overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to small ground-combat units.
But the military would have until 2016 to argue for any specific posts they think should remained closed to women.
The decision is expected to be formally announced on Thursday.
Military chiefs will be asked to report back to Leon Panetta by May 15 on their initial plans to implement the new policy.
Some jobs are expected to be opened to women this year, while others – including for special forces such as the Navy Seals and the Delta Force – could take longer.
This decision could open more than 230,000 combat roles to women, many in infantry units.
Senate armed services committee chairman Carl Levin welcomed the decision.
“I support it,” he said.
“It reflects the reality of 21st Century military operations.”
Restrictions were first eased a year ago, when the Pentagon opened up 14,500 roles, closer to the front line, which had previously been off limits to female personnel.
In November, a group of four women in the military sued the defence department over the ban, arguing that it was unconstitutional.
One of the plaintiffs, Marine Corps Capt Zoe Bedell, said existing rules had blocked her advancement in the Marines.
During the Iraq and Afghan wars, US female military personnel have worked as medics, military police and intelligence officers, sometimes attached but not formally assigned to front-line units.
As of 2012, more than 800 women were wounded in those wars, and at least 130 have died.
Women comprise 14% of America’s 1.4 million active military personnel.