The origins of the Joint Air Transport Establishment (JATE), which was formed in 1968, can be traced back to the creation of British Airborne Forces at RAF Ringway in 1940 with the subsequent formation of the Airborne Forces Development Centre (AFDC) and the RAF’s Airborne Forces Tactical Development Unit (AFDU).
The successor units to the AFDC and AFDU, by then known as the Army Air Transport Training and Development Centre (AATDC) and the Air Transport Development Unit (ATDU), were placed under the command of Headquarters JATE on its formation. A third unit, the Joint Helicopter Development Unit (JHDU), which had been formed on JATE’s creation, operated alongside the AATDC and ATDU.
A merger of the AATDC and ATDU units occurred around the time of JATE’s relocation to RAF Abingdon, which started in 1970 and completed in 1973. The main part of the JHDU remained at Old Sarum as the Joint Helicopter Tactical Development Unit (JHTDU) and became independent of JATE.
JATE retained one section, made up of personnel of AATDC's Helicopter Section, concerned with helicopter underslung loads, internal load clearance work and techniques for carriage of troops by helicopter.
Under the new structure the JATE sections comprised: Heavy Drop, Air Despatch, Airportability, Infantry/Signals and Training Sections (all ex-AATDC), together with Air Logistics and Aircraft Engineering Sections (ATDU background), Helicopter Section (JHDU/AATDC background) Design Drawing Office (made up of personnel from both AATDC and ATDU) and Flying Section (Hercules aircraft) which was special to JATE.
JATE relocated to RAF Brize Norton, its present location, at the end of 1975.
By now JATE’s role was summarised as “the study, development and service testing of techniques and equipment for airborne assault and air transported operations including the carriage of stores by helicopters. In addition to train instructors and key personnel of all three services in these techniques, and those connected with the ground handling of helicopters.”
By the end of the 1970s, JATE had become a more streamlined organisation with fewer sections: Aerial delivery, Air portability, Airborne Trials, Engineering, Training, Helicopters, Design and Flying.
From the start of the 1980s until April 1998 the post of Commandant JATE, which used to rotate between RAF and Army, was provided by an Army Colonel and the post of Deputy Commandant was filled by a RAF Wing Commander of the General Duties Flying Branch.
In 1998 JATE was moved from the Director of Commitments to the RAF Air Warfare Centre (AWC). As part of this reorganisation the JATE Flying Section became part of the Hercules Operational Evaluation Unit (HOEU) at RAF Lyneham, and the Commandant became an Army Lieutenant Colonel with the second in command staffed by an RAF Squadron Leader.
JATE's name also changed to reflect its position within the AWC becoming an evaluation unit instead of an establishment. The unit remains in existence and is presently known as the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit.