It is hard to fathom why, given submarines have been a vital part of Australia's defence forces since the earliest days of the Royal Australian Navy, politicians and military bureaucrats have so much trouble getting them right.
After the massive thumbs down delivered to the latest future submarine project by the Australian National Audit Office this week, it is timely to recall when World War I broke out in August, 1914, the RAN, then less than two years old, had two of the most modern and capable submarines in the world.
Delivered just months before the outbreak of hostilities, they were much more up to date, for example, than the 1905 vintage craft RN Commander, Norman Douglas Holbrook VC, used to penetrate the Dardanelles in December, 1914.
While one, the AE-1, was lost under tragic circumstances while supporting Australian operations in German New Guinea, the AE-2 sailed into history by emulating Holbrook's feat the following year.
The last Australian submarines whose acquisition and operational life came even close to "smooth sailing" were the venerable O-boats which did sterling service from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s.
HMAS Oxley, one of the first of two batches, was commissioned into the Australian fleet less than four years after the decision to proceed with the acquisition was made.
This is truly remarkable given the vessels underwent significant design modifications to incorporate the use of American, rather than British, weaponry.
Compare that to the extended and painful birth pangs of the Collins class and, more recently, the $80 billion Attack Class submarine project.
The key difference between the A and O class boats and their heirs and successors is that when they were ordered capability and value for money, literally bang for the buck, were the key criteria.
Having the O-boats purpose-built by an experienced contractor with an existing production pipeline utilising tried and true technology meant they were available for use during the Vietnam conflict if required.
If their acquisition had been left up to the current crop of politicians, mandarins and vested defence industry interests they might not have been ready to put to sea in time for the intervention in East Timor.
Both the Collins and the Attack classes were chosen on the basis of a very different set of criteria.
Capability and value for money now jockey for position with "job creation", political code for pork barrelling by a succession of Labor and Coalition governments fighting for seats in South Australia and West Australia.
This, as you would expect, has delivered the worst of all possible worlds on almost every front. The ANAO's most damning criticism of the Attack Class program was: "Defence cannot demonstrate that its expenditure of $396 million on design of the Future Submarine has been fully effective in achieving the program's two major design milestones to date".
That is a polite way of saying a lot of public money has been spent to achieve a disappointingly sub-optimal result. This is what happens when you try to reverse a nuclear submarine hull into a diesel electric utilising 20th century lead acid battery technology.
We are, in short, in the process of building another underwater unicorn; a uniquely bespoke craft whose like does not exist anywhere else on the planet.
While some critics of the project argue it would be more economical to walk away from the Attack Class, now expected to cost upwards of $225 billion by the time the vessels are retired in the 2080s, and start over with an off the shelf purchase of UK Acute Class or US Virginia Class nuclear submarines this is never going to happen.
The defence establishment has paid out the money and the Australian public now has to hope they will finally get it right.