State media has been posting pictures of the PLA Navy’s latest generation of missile fast attack craft. The first of the high-speed catamarans appeared as long ago at 2004, but the fleet is being steadily built out, and now numbers in the dozens. We do wonder why they are being shown off now though, beyond showing there is more to the PLA-N than just an aircraft carrier.
The PLA-N is believed to be the first navy to use combat catamarans, as opposed to catamaran support vessels. Its are equipped with eight YJ-83 anti-ship missiles, launched from two pods at the stern. There is 30mm artillery for short-range air defence on the bow deck, plus a couple of four-tube tube launchers. The hulls are constructed to be more stable in choppy seas than conventional catamarans and use a wave-piercing design from Australia that is also used in passenger ferries in China.
The camouflage paints used on the missile catamarans in the picture above suggest that they will be used in the southern fleet. Those deployed in northern waters use a four-color scheme that includes black, as seen in the picture below.
Update: This pictorial show of sea power may mirror a real one being reported by the Financial Times which says that a Chinese warship confronted an Indian navy vessel in the South China Sea shortly after it left Vietnamese waters in late July. The implication of the naval challenge is that China is enforcing its belief that it is entitled to police the entirety of the South China Sea, over which it claims a sovereignty not acknowledged by its regional neighbors.