---- UPDATE: I finally managed to see this awesome boat, hopefulyl I'll find the time soon to write a substantial, detailed update of this chapter and add lots of photos too. I have loads of other things to do, though, so please give me time. -----
Once a major object of national pride for France
, the Le Redoutable was the first nuclear submarine in the "Force de frappe" ('strike force'), as France's nuclear deterrent programme is informally known.
The 8000 ton massive sub, 420 feet (or 128 metres) long, was designed and built in the late 1960s and commissioned in 1971 as the first of a series of six boats forming the "Le Redoutable class". In 1991 it was also the first of these vessels to be decommissioned. Until then it carried 16 SLBMs (sea-launched ballistic missiles – cf. ICBM
) with nuclear warheads, which were updated to ever higher yields and longer ranges over the course of its service. Since 2008 all Redoutable class submarines have been decommissioned and have been replaced by the larger "Triomphant" class subs.
Today the pioneering Le Redoutable is a unique museum piece, forming a premier part of the theme park "La Cite de la Mer" in Cherbourg, in northern Normandy, and can be visited in its permanent dry dock. You can view the interior too, even including the former missile launch panels … it sure is an eerie sight. This is the closest you can ever get as a civilian to these deadly black monsters … It's the largest publicly accessible submarine in the world.
(When appreciating this – and esp. its value as a dark tourism site – you have to remember that to this day such nuclear submarines form the crucial backbone of the nuclear armaments of the four major nuclear powers USA
, Great Britain
… even if the Cold War
is technically speaking over … so it's more than just dark history …).
Opening Times: 9.30 or 10 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. (the longer opening times apply during high season and holidays), last admission an hour and a half before closing time (!).
Admission: between 15.50 EUR and 18 EUR, depending on season, 5 EUR off for under 18-year-olds. (High season runs from 1 April to 30 September.)
Audio guides in English (as well as in Dutch and German) are available (written information also available in Spanish, Italian and Russian).
Location: The "Cite de la Mer" (which also comprises of a large aquarium and an exhibition about deep sea exploration) is easy to find right at the centre of Cherbourg's harbour front, next to the (well sign-posted) ferry terminal. It's a 15-minute walk from Cherbourg's SNCF train station. There's free parking by the museum.