Modified Shipping Containers: Military & Defence Applications

Believe it or not, modified shipping containers were a military invention long before they started life as a core part of international, intermodal transportation of consumer goods. Starting with the Australian army in World War II, then later with the American Army, early types of shipping containers were used in the transportation of military items such as sensitive military equipment instead of more fragile shipping methods such as wooden crates and bulk transport.

Later on during the Korean war the US army continued to evolve its “Transporters” (as these shipping containers were referred to) to designs that were closer to the standard ISO containers we all recognise today. Wood began to be replaced with metal in order to increase structural strength and security of the containers. Eventually standardised 8 foot x 8 foot containers were developed by the US Department of Defence, which later evolved into the multiples of 10 foot that we use today. It wasn’t until 1968 that the four most common ISO standards that we use in shipping were finalised such as:

  • R-668: Terminology, dimension & ratings

  • R-790: Identification & markings

  • R-1161: Corner fittings

  • R-1897: Minimum internal dimensions

Modified Shipping Containers – Military Applications:

Nowadays modified shipping containers have many military and civilian applications in both modified and standard configurations, this applications include but are not limited to:


Still the most common use of shipping containers worldwide, both in civilian and military use, shipping containers for transportation.  With common, standardised sizes such as 10, 20 and 40 foot containers, shipping containers can be used to transport loads effectively via Truck, Train, Boat or Helicopter, where and when you need it.

MOUT Training Scenarios & Facilities:

Urban Warfare is often commonly referred to as MOUT (Military Operations In Urban Terrain) or UO (Urban Operations) in the United States, OBUA (Operations In Built Up Areas), FISH (Fighting In Someone’s House) or FISH & CHIPS (Fighting In Someones House & Causing Havoc In Peoples Streets) in by the British Armed Forces, LASHAB by the Israeli Defence Force or elsewhere as FOFO (Fighting in Fortified Objectives).

Armed forces worldwide have urban warfare facilities for its infantry and special forces to improve their operational tactics and readiness such as the “Afghan Village” within the Stanford Training Arena (STANTA) operated by the British Army, The CENZUB facilty operated by the French Military (Bausejour has a street constructed from 20 foot shipping containers) and of course various MOUT training facility located on US Army bases.

By far the best way to quickly, cheaply and effectively create an urban training environment suitable for military personnel is from modified shipping containers.  They are simple to modify, easy to transport, stackable, and of course come pre built.

Various configurations and container modifications are available depending on your unique tactical requirements including:

  • Breachable doors & windows

  • Trap doors

  • Interior & exterior stairways

  • Partition walls

  • Courtyard walls

  • Balconies

Forward Operating Bases

Forward operating bases are secure military positions that are used to support tactical operations in the field, consisting of fortifications, secure entry points and temporary (which can often become semi-permanent). Often these will need to be set up quickly, in rough terrain, under less than ideal conditions.  With their ability to be prefabricated, modified easily, stacked securely, transported by ship, truck, train or helicopter – modified shipping containers are the perfect solution to military base requirements in the field.

Military Barracks/Sleeping Quarters

Referred to in the military as Containerised Housing Units (CHU’s pronounced “Shoes”) or Containerised Living Units (CLU) or in military slang “cans”. These prefabricated housing units made out of modified shipping containers can be pre wired for electricity, provide more privacy, permanence and isolation than the typical camp environment tents, as well as being fully scalable and stackable

Dining Halls, Kitchens, Refrigerator & Freezer Units

Napoleon was quoted as saying that “An Army Marches on its Stomach”, and its as true today as it was hundreds of years ago. No matter where in the world you are, soldiers require feeding and a large amount of soldiers requires, not only field kitchens, but freezers and refrigerators and of course dining halls. Modified shipping containers are perfect for the role, with their ability to be easily transported into place, modified offsite to include kitchen or dining facilities and of course reefer units to act as a field refrigerator or freezer. There is simply no better solution to military catering buildings than modified shipping containers.

Kitchen containers can be modified to have gas cooking units and generators, stainless steel food preparation areas, full electrical fitout, plumbing and more, allowing the ability to cater for hundreds of people from a 20 foot shipping container.

Latrines/Bathrooms/Ablutions Units

The military’s sanitary needs are covered with portable ablution units.  Modified shipping containers can be divided to include washbasins, toilets and showers, using military grade stainless steel for hygiene requirements. Water treatment systems and heating units can also be added depending on requirements.

Field Classrooms

Training requirements don’t stop when you are on deployment.  Modified shipping containers make excellent classrooms with the ability to include all facilities you require such as electrical sockets, A/V equipment mounting points, air conditioning, furniture and more.

Portable Field Hospitals

Medical Clinics, Surgical Centres and Turnkey Field Hospitals can easily be built into containers, with built in electrical and plumbing, stainless steel fittings for hygiene, modified shipping containers are an excellent way to get a fully equipped, prefabricated medical facility into the field fast.

Portable Field Laundry Containers

Custom built military laundries are designed for easy deployment and use in the field.  Utilising industrial washing machines, soap dispensers and dryers, mounted so that the can be removed for easy maintenance. Options include:

  • Washing Machines

  • Dryers

  • Soap Dispensers

Portable Generators

With any deployment comes the requirement for electrical power, and often a decent power supply is not easily available. Luckily high output generators can be fitted into a 20-40 foot shipping container for easy transportation and deployment.  Features include:

  • Doors for maintenance and inspection

  • High capacity fuel tanks

  • Custom control panel and switch cabinets

  • Sound proof and flameproof materials used in construction to reduce noise pollution and fire risk

Water Treatment units

Deployment in harsh conditions can often mean less than ideal water supplies.  Containerised water treatment stations are the ideal way of ensuring purified water can be supplied in large quantities in the harshest conditions. Typically these will include multi stage filtration and osmosis, along with full plumbing, pumps and access panels for easy maintenance and cleaning.

Office & Mobile Command Post Containers

Command and control is an essential element of successful military strategy, so is the requirement of a mobile command post for any forward operating base.  Custom command posts can be built from 10-40 foot containers including:

  • Full electrical fitout

  • Multimedia wiring in container

  • Multiple workspaces built into to container

  • Folding partitions

  • Air conditioning and filtration systems

  • On board batteries and UPS system for power backup

Portable Field Workshops

Operating in the field is always going to result in gear breaking down and a modern military is always going to need a fully operational workshop wherever it is on deployment.  Portable field workshops can be fully customised to be any size from 10-40 foot and include modifications such as:

  • Heavy duty workbenches

  • Roller Doors & Secure windows

  • Lighting and electrical fitouts

  • Ramps for ease of access

  • Gantry systems

  • Tool storage

Explosives & Ammunition Magazines

Foal Eagle 98

Shipping containers are the ideal solution for portable explosives and ammunition storage requirements for the military including gunpowder, bombs, explosives, pyrotechnics, ammunition and flammable liquids. They are available in a range of sizes depending on requirements, and manufactured to meet the Australian Explosive Storage Regulations.

Explosives Storage Containers Features:

  • Insulated against the elements

  • Locking, safe & secure

  • ISO Standardised sizing and quality accreditation

  • Manufactured to Australian Standards AS2187.1-1998

  • Safety signage as per military requirements

  • Customised to your specific requirements

Full Range of Customisations Available:

Custom Painting:

Our military use modified shipping containers  can be custom painted to any Australian Defence Force Colour Scheme, UN markings or other common military colour scheme as required.

Other Modifications:

A full range of our standard container modifications are available on most of our defence specific containers including: security, insulation, ventilation, shelving, electrical fitouts, access doors & windows, almost anything – and we’ll make sure it meets rigorous military specifications.

Not listed above? Talk to us about your modification ideas, if it’s feasible one of our engineers will be able to do it!

Benefits of Shipping Containers For Military Use:

  • Containers can be safely and securely locked to prevent theft or damage

  • Can be stacked between 3-9 containers high depending on construction material

  • ISO Standardised sizing allows for easy transportation by road, rail, ship or air

  • Rapid setup and deployment of any type of building requirement, almost anywhere

  • Durability – containers are made to withstand the harsh, salty sea air and can survive demanding field conditions

Contact our team of container experts to discuss how your unit can benefit from the best in modified shipping containers to meet your needs while deployed in a tactical situation.

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