Denmark turns to modular ships for its Arctic naval defense

Are modular ships the answer to solving the problem of aging fleets?
Ameya Paleja
Stock image of a Danish Naval ship
Stock image of a Danish Naval ship


The Danish Navy has turned to a modular ship design for its upcoming patrol ships that will be deployed in the warming Arctic regions. The Danish Ministry of Defense recently signed an agreement for these ships with a consortium of patrol ship makers, a media report said.

After exercising their dominance over the land, nations of the world are now flexing their muscles over the waters of the remotest parts of the world. In 2020, China surpassed the US to have the largest navy in the world and has been showcasing its strength in the South China Sea.

The noteworthy response to such a move can only be a further expansion of the fleet by its adversaries. However, the small nation of Denmark is showing how naval fleets may not necessarily have to be large to be effective.

Denmark's Place in global politics

With a population of just five million people, Denmark might seem like a small player on the global stage. However, as a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the country has a crucial role to play in the military alliance.

More than two centuries ago, it became a part of the Realm of Denmark, even though the capital cities of the two lands are more than 2,000 miles away. Even though Greenland has a local government, the defense of the world's third-largest island rests with Denmark.

Thanks to global warming, the Arctic ice is rapidly melting, and the region is becoming more accessible. This is expected to open more trade routes but also increase friction between nations. Last week, Interesting Engineering reported how China was building a new icebreaker with submersibles to access polar seabeds in the region.

Denmark remains a small country and does not have the financial resources like China or the US to expand its naval fleet. Its modular approach may lead to a novel way to approach the problem.

How modular ships work

The Danish Navy has only signed the agreement with the Danish Patrol Ships K/S consortium recently, and further details on how the ships will work are still awaited. The design phase of the project is expected to be completed by mid-2025.

Experts believe that the OMT MPV80 ships that debuted in 2021 will serve as a template for the new patrol ships. Built by the Odense Maritime Technology and SH Defence, the ships use a modular system dubbed "Cube" to package equipment in modules that can be loaded and offloaded just like shipping containers.

The upcoming patrol ships would likely feature side panels where these "Cubes" can be slotted in before the vessel heads out for a mission. All the equipment necessary for a particular operation will be part of the cube and swapped out of the vessel when the mission is complete.

This technique could allow a vessel to be used to lay mines or hunt them, depending on the module used. When required, the vessel could take the role of a coast guard and rush to a site with rescue boats in an emergency. In times of conflict, the cubes could be equipped to fire torpedoes or missiles.

Similarly, the assets on the ship, such as sensors or weapons, can also be updated rapidly without requiring the ship to be removed from service. This could also serve as a template for warships of the future.

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