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Navy considering bringing women aboard more sub classes

The USS Hawaii moors at Pier 13 on Tuesday at Yokosuka Naval Base, the first port stop of the fast-attack sub's Western Pacific deployment. The visit by the Hawaii is the first by a Virginia class submarine to the 7th Fleet's Western Pacific-based area of operations. Navy officials say the boat's abilities in coastal waters give planners more flexibility in gathering intelligence and performing other missions.

The Navy will decide by March 2015 whether women will be allowed to serve on more classes of submarines.

The Navy announced in January that female officers will begin reporting to Virginia-class attack submarines in fiscal year 2015, and, as the next step, enlisted women would be considered for sub duty.

On Tuesday, the Department of Defense released its plans for allowing women to serve in positions throughout the military that are currently closed to them. The Navy's plan explains the timeline for opening all occupations to women and nearly all of the closed positions, including several aboard submarines.

Female officers can serve on each type of submarine: fast-attack, ballistic-missile and guided-missile. The Navy is now considering whether they will be assigned to Los Angeles and Seawolf-class fast-attack submarines, in addition to the Virginia class, according to the plan.

The Naval Submarine Base in Groton is home to both Los Angeles and Virginia-class submarines.

The first two Virginia-class submarines that women will serve on will be selected in the third quarter of this year, and female officers will report aboard in January 2015.

Enlisted jobs on submarines are currently closed to women, but the plan states that the Navy is studying whether to assign women to these jobs on submarine classes besides the Virginia class and will decide by March 2015.

Vice Adm. Michael J. Connor, commander of the submarine force, created a task force of senior officers in May to figure out how to bring enlisted women aboard submarines. Rear Adm. Kenneth Perry, the commander of Submarine Group Two, is leading the group. A comprehensive "Plan of Actions and Milestones" is due by January 2014.

A new ballistic-missile submarine, which Electric Boat is currently designing, will accommodate officers and enlisted sailors of both genders, according to the Navy. EB will figure out how to do so during the ship's detailed arrangement phase, which will begin next year and continues through 2020.

The fifth block of Virginia-class submarines, which includes 12 submarines starting in fiscal 2019, will also be gender neutral, the Navy said.

The Navy lifted its ban on women serving aboard submarines in 2010 and started assigning female officers first to the larger, ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines. In January, then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rescinded the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, which barred women from combat jobs.

Each service and the U.S. Special Operations Command must fully implement its plan by Jan. 1, 2016.

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