Anatomy of a fighter pilot in the Malvinas: “You have cold blood, adrenaline and you don’t think about death”

Carlos Talo Moreno, pilot of Mirage V Dagger was the first aviator to fight during the Falklands War

According to Aristotle, the brave is the one who has achieved a middle ground between recklessness and cowardice. That was Carlos Moreno, cautious and aggressive at the same time. The Mirage V Dagger pilot, who took his last flight on November 12, 2019, carried out six missions in the Malvinas war. In one of them, he put the destroyer Antrim out of action. I had a long talk with him in May 2017. “Talo” had no hesitation in touching on topics that for many are taboo.

—When you go to combat, what is your priority, serenity or adrenaline?

—There are two. You have a lot of adrenaline, but you need cold blood to not make mistakes in all the maneuvers.

—During the mission, do you think about death?

—You don’t have it planned in your head. There are too many things to do to distract yourself with death. Neither with the family, nor with the children, nor with anything.

—But the adrenaline pumps…

“Yes, from now on… Pump harder when they tell you: “You have a mission”. There you start planning, you go to the plane, you do a lot of homework and the fear goes down. There is always fear, but during the flight it decreases.

—And on the way back, do you relax, do you feel like you’re back to life, because when you took off you didn’t know if you were coming back?

-In fact, you don’t think you won’t come back. Thinking that decreases the reactions to what one has to do. On the contrary, I am sure I will return, that I am going to run over the other and the other is not going to do anything to me. That’s the aggressiveness a fighter pilot should have.

“Whoever thinks of death becomes weak and won’t fight well?”

—It is so.

"The adrenaline pumps stronger when they tell you: 'You have a mission'.  There you start planning, you go to the plane, you do a lot of tasks and the fear goes down"
“The adrenaline pumps stronger when they tell you: ‘You have a mission’. Then you start planning, you go to the plane, you do a lot of tasks and the fear goes down”

—In fact, there were pilots who left in fear and turned back prematurely, or threw the bombs into the sea…

-Has passed. We are all afraid, but there were pilots who did not overcome it. People who, as you say, dropped the bombs into the sea, or maintained that the plane was failing them and they were imaginary failures. And there was a case in which a guy – he wasn’t a fighter pilot – shot himself in the hand so as not to go out. This happens in all war conflicts. In World War II there were many soldiers who shot themselves in the leg to avoid going into combat.

—In Malvinas there was also…

-Oh yeah? It depends on the amount of fear.

“Is there a manageable amount of fear and an unmanageable amount?”

-I think so. Courage is being the only one to know you’re scared. I mean, I’m scared, but I can’t show it. Above all, when I am a squad leader, I go before the kids, the young people. If I show fear, I would loosen up the rest.

—And there’s something like: I’m afraid, but I’m more afraid that they think I’m a coward…

-Of course. That’s how it is. There were cases of people who totally slacked off. I did an analysis about it, when I was in the Higher School of War. The group of pilots who did not overcome their fear was among the captains, who are the squadron leaders. There are no cases of lieutenants who have wrinkled and did not want to fly.

Fear grows with age…

“There are several factors. The lieutenant is single. The captain is normally married with children. He has other things to think about. The captain goes ahead and is responsible for the numerals, the lieutenants. He is the guy who has to lead the mission. The kid who goes behind, trains the captain and thinks: he goes to the front, I follow him. But the captain has no one ahead. However, the eight or ten guys who dropped bombs and missed were the exception. Most went well.

"Courage is being the only one to know you're scared.  I mean, I'm scared, but I can't show it.  Especially when I'm a squad leader"
“Courage consists in being the only one to know that you’re scared. I mean, I’m scared, but I can’t show it. Especially when I’m a squad leader”

—Is age a factor, because with it one becomes aware of one’s mortality?

—Yes, when you are older… However, So that fear does not overcome you, the fundamental factor is love for the country. Know that you are doing it because those islands are yours and you have to defend them. Besides, I swore, as a cadet, to do it until I lost my life. They prepare you mentally and physically for that. Who doesn’t feel that way, loosen up. And the other fundamental factor is training. If you are well trained -and we were- you know that you will unfailingly bring down the other, and not the other way around.

“A sense of omnipotence?”

-Yes. There is an anonymous saying that goes: “If you know the best fighter pilot in the world, and it’s not you, you shouldn’t be a fighter pilot.” Very superb, but it is what a fighter pilot should think about in order not to loosen up.

“There is no place for humility.

-Of course. It must be so.

-They told me that in some cases of wrinkling, when certain aviators returned in a dishonest manner, at night the mechanics wrapped the plane with toilet paper.

—I heard that, I don’t think it happened. Sure, mechanics know who said there was a fault when there really wasn’t. Or if the alleged failure is repeated with the same pilot. I don’t think it happened, but it was talked about. I don’t know.

—How did you react to these cases?

“Fear is hunchbacked. In the war, when we saw that a captain crumpled, we used to swear at him, we told him everything. Over the years I say: That guy didn’t want to die, he’s human too. You can’t be a military man if you don’t want to go to war. From now on, you have to cancel it. But the guy didn’t want to die…