FRONTLINE BATTLE MACHINES
Mike was sitting with his wife Michelle one morning reading the newspapers and saw yet another article about how British soldiers’ equipment wasn’t up to the job. So he decided to find out for himself, by going to the front line in Afghanistan, speaking to the soldiers who use the kit and getting a unique insight into their life and the machinery they use in the field of battle. Little did he know the real challenge he was about to face.
For the eight part series, Mike was given unprecedented access to the front line in Afghanistan, working and living with the troops at Camp Bastian in Helmand province.
Mike and his production team revealed the incredible bravery of the British and American troops and the technology they rely on to keep them alive. In their fight against the Taliban, any situation can quickly become life-threatening, and the training and technology is essential to their survival.
This unique perspective and unrivalled access creates a very personal and captivating journey as Mike and the team travel to the forward operational bases to test the latest machines of war.
Across the series, you will see first-hand how technology has transformed the modern battlefield as Mike meets the men and women who operate the equipment under hostile conditions.
Mike even personally experiences the extreme danger that the British Army face on a daily basis whilst travelling in a Chinook helicopter which comes under enemy attack, leaving the pilot Flight Lieutenant Ian Fortune was wounded in the head after being shot in the helmet.
Each show features three to four key items of equipment, including armoured troop carriers, fighter planes, helicopters, light tanks, machine guns and guided missiles. Mike tests each machine or weapon on various stages of his incredible journey from Camp Bastion to the front line.
Combining fast-paced action with insight into modern warfare, Frontline Battle Machines with Mike Brewer explores the lives of the heroes on the front line and the equipment on which their lives depend.
Mike was in the rear of the helicopter with six casualties when it was hit eight times by insurgents. The craft’s stabilisation system was destroyed and Fortune’s helmet visor was shattered and his cheek was cut but he refused to hand the controls to his co-pilot.
He explains: “When you land, the blades suck in the air and it smells like fireworks night. I saw people getting shot. They were coming towards the aircraft from this compound and getting shot. They were Afghan and American soldiers in retreat. It was a ramshackle group of soldiers, some on stretchers, others dragging themselves towards you.
“They had a look of fear, anxiety and sanctuary, all in one.
“Then the gunshots opened up, pinging around inside the chinook and outside. Shouts of ‘Let’s go!’, ‘Let’s go!’ Then we were away.”
Next to Mike was one of the victims. “His leg was almost shot off but he had the world’s biggest smile. He was glad to be out of there.”
Seconds later, the Chinook was hit and lost altitude suddenly.
“It was shuddering and wobbling. Then the pilot came on, very RAF: ‘OK, chaps, I’ve been shot in the face.’ I thought: ‘This is it. I’m going to die.’ The experienced guys around me were holding on to each other, staring into each other’s eyes. I don’t know how but the helicopter managed to stay in the air. ”
It was another 15 minutes before the Chinook landed safely. “To this day I don’t know how he did it. The pilot breezed past me with blood all over his face and said: ‘All right, Mike? I told you I would get you back safely’.”
Two weeks later, Chinook Bravo November was back in service.
Flight Lieutenant Ian Fortune was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross at Buckingham Palace from the Prince of Wales. He was also given the Outstanding Airman award at the Night of Military Heroes, organised by The Sun newspaper, where Mike paid tribute to Ian’s heroics.