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Le Redoutable

Tail 'n' prop

Engine room

Looking forward

Oil

Working our way forward

Reduction gear

Where's Scotty?

Tubes and tubes and tubes

Engine control room

Rear escape hatch

Switches and circuit breakers

How do you tell?

New-clear

Water, water everywhere

Missile room

Creepy corridor

M20s

Never wet

Be careful...

Two stories high

Bridge

Missile command

Red

Anybody got the keys?

Oh sure, bury the sound guy

Seismic anomaly?

Down periscope

Hatch up the sail

A hallway!

Captain's bunk

Officers' galley

Officers' mess

Lounge

Stylish, too

Downstairs

Screen door

Pantry

Mess

Galley

8 on, 16 off

No hot bunks

I'm a doctor, not a dentist

Head

Torpedo room

Torpedo tube

Hulls

Ladder?

Sail

Hatches

Long boat

Prop

Under the long keel

Seams

Dive planes

Quietly into history

The French nuclear submarine Redoutable spent the '70s and '80s at sea and was home to 135 sailors for months at a time. The missile boat-turned-museum resides in the French seaside town of Cherbourg after extensive refurbishment. See inside this massive submarine and silent threat of nuclear annihilation through many pictures and a bunch of words.

It's pretty much impossible to get a full shot of the sub, given where it rests. Let's just say, it's big.


For the full story about the sub and the tour, check out A tour of the ballistic missile nuclear submarine Redoutable.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

You start your tour down (cut in specifically for this purpose) this end, through a door that's just off to the left of this shot.

Modern subs don't usually use propellers like that (too loud).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

After the reactor generates steam, this steam spins some turbines, the turbines hit a reduction gear (all of this you'll see in a moment), and eventually it hits the prop shaft, which was cut away so you can walk more easily (the yellow cap is the end).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

To the left is where you enter, the yellow cap is the other half of the severed prop shaft. Above, you can see some of the big hydraulics that turn the rudder.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

If it doesn't run on electricity, it runs on hydraulics. Here, you can see one of the main hubs that direct the oil throughout the ship.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

On the left, you can see the reduction gear (closeup in the next frame). Even though there's more space on this sub than most I've been on, they certainly don't waste any of it.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The turbines spin way too fast to directly turn the propeller, so a reduction gear is used.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Those huge tubes carry the high-pressure steam from the reactor to the turbines. These are heavily insulated, as you'd guess.

On the right is one of two electrical generators (the other was removed during the museum conversion).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

A slightly different angle, showing the passage aft.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Man, this looks like a nuclear power station control room.

Oh, wait, it is. Along with all the other moving and dangerous parts of the "drivetrain."

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

One of the few escape hatches. This thing looks creepy, even on dry land.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

A nuclear sub is largely a power station that pushes around a missile base.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

I think it's quite interesting that there's little way to tell, for a layman, what or where any of these go. It's not like it says "guest room" or "kitchen" like the panel at your house.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

This was the reactor room. It was wise that they removed the reactor completely for the museum refurb, since there was only a small space along the spine that allowed passage from the bow areas of the ship to the stern.

That and, you know, it's a nuclear reactor.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

With nearly unlimited energy, a lot of very useful things can happen. You get propulsion, sure, but also electricity. And with electricity, you can take seawater and make pure drinking water. You can also separate out those pesky H molecules and make as much oxygen as your crew needs too.

CO2 scrubbers (lower left) take out that deadly gas.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The Redoutable carried 16 M20 ballistic missiles, each with a range of over 1,800 miles.

That's what was in the two curved tubes you see here.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

On the right are all the computers charged with programming the missiles with directions on how to get to their targets.

Along the left are all the missiles. They're blocked off now so you can't walk in and around them.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Two of these missiles are more powerful than all the conventional explosives dropped in WWI and WWII combined.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The missiles are fired using compressed air and never actually get wet. As they breach the surface, their engines fire, quickly accelerating to over 9,000 mph.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Some things in here don't react too well to bullets.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

This is the top deck of the sub. The previous pictures were the main deck; the missiles extend above and below, as well.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Around the corner from the missile bay is the command center. The big box you see here is the inertial navigation system.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

No joke -- this is where you'd launch the missiles, if so commanded.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Apparently they did actually use red lights during high alert and/or exercises. Also, throughout the rest of the ship, they'd use red lights to simulate night.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Stick or automatic?

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

That console in the back is the sonar table, off in its own corner.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Took the combined power of my phone's LED and the camera's (hardly ever used) flash. Still not great, but pretty good for the dark.

The sonar station, where ears are the eyes of the boat.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Periscopes for the XO and captain.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Very few subs let you climb up into the sail. Not sure why. Is climbing a liability?

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

All of a sudden, we've left a submarine and entered a '70s kitsch hotel that's been squished from the sides.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The wide-angle lens makes this look bigger than it was, but by sub standards, it was still pretty roomy.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Of course, the French would have an espresso maker. That can't be original equipment, can it?

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

This is the single nicest space I've ever seen on a submarine. Downright cozy.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

It's like your neighbor's basement (presuming you grew up in the '70s or early '80s).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Nice design to cover the curve of the hull. Quite a lovely space...reserved for officers, of course.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Most of the subs I've been on have been one main deck only (plus the sail). This one not only has stairs, but an elevator (OK, a dumbwaiter, but still).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Well, that doesn't look water-tight.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The only thing that prevents a sub from touring indefinitely is having sufficient food for the crew. So as much as possible goes in here. Normal tours were about 70 days.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

How's this for a big wide-open space? The crew's mess, a place to eat and relax while off duty.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Even the galley is impressively sized.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Normal crew rotation is for 8 hours on duty, 8 hours for sleep, and 8 hours for everything else, including studying, maintenance, relaxing, and so on.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Apparently the Redoutable was the first sub to have enough space for every member of its crew to get their own bunk. Now, that's luxury.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Through the (not original, obviously) glass in the floor, you can see the chair of the ship's doctor, which doubles as the dentist's chair, for the ship's dentist, who also doubles as the ship's doctor.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

With unlimited water, there are sinks and showers galore (relatively speaking).

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Unlike most subs, a 'boomer' (US Navy slang for ballistic missile submarine) has torpedo tubes for defensive use only.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The torpedoes the Redoutable carried had a range of about nine miles.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Thanks to a cutaway for the exit door, you can see the inner pressure hull and the exterior hull.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Cross bracing for sure, but a ladder? Who knew?

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Normally subs cruise from around 164 to 656 feet below the surface. Unless they're headed for the legendary "periscope depth."

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The 16 missile hatches, with the lovely Cherbourg harbor in the background.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Out of the water, it looks huge. I can only imagine how much sleeker it looked while cruising.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

Many modern subs use pump-jets instead.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

This is a view I didn't expect. You can actually walk all around it, even touch the rudder. It's coarser than you'd expect.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

I would have expected a smoother overall surface, but then, it's not like they can forge it out of a single piece of steel.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The dive planes on the sail help the sub fine-tune its depth, or assist in surfacing and submerging.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison

The Redoutable's long and graceful lines sit peacefully next to Cherbourg harbor. Not a bad way to spend retirement.

For the full story about the sub and the tour, check out A tour of the ballistic missile nuclear submarine Redoutable. Also check out CNET's tours of the HMS Alliance and HMAS Ovens submarines.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison
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