Kambampati Nachiketa

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Group Captain

Kambampati Nachiketa Rao
Born (1973-05-31) 31 May 1973 (age 45)
Allegiance India
Service/branch Indian Air Force
Years of service1990 – 2017
RankGroup Captain of IAF.png Group Captain
UnitNo. 9 Squadron
No.48 Squadron
No.78 Squadron
Battles/warsKargil War
AwardsVayusena Medal ribbon.svg Vayusena Medal

Group Captain Kambampati Nachiketa Rao Vayusena Medal (Gallantry),[1] is an officer of the Indian Air Force. During the Kargil War on 27 May 1999, Kampambati was captured by Pakistani troops in Kashmir following ejection from his MiG-27L[2] aircraft after his engine was hit by a Pakistani Stinger missile causing an engine flame-out[3] while flying against infiltrator positions during the initial stages of Operation Safed Sagar. He was held in Pakistani custody as the first Indian prisoner of war of the conflict.[4]

Nachiketa was born on 31 May 1973 to Sri. K. R. K. Sastry and Smt. K. Laxmi.[5] He studied at Kendriya Vidyalaya in Delhi, and joined the Indian Air Force after training at the National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla, near Pune.

Kargil War[edit]

Kambampati was a Flight Lieutenant during the Kargil Operations. He was one of the pilots from No. 9 Squadron IAF who took part on a strike in the Batalik Sector on 26 May 1999.[6] Armed with 80mm rockets, Kambampati carried out an attack on an enemy concentration. He carried out a second attack on the target using the aircraft's 30mm cannon. Subsequently, the engine flamed out.

All attempts to re-light the engine failed and Kambampati was forced to eject. After landing on the ground, it appeared that initially, Kambampati was able to gather his wits and evade immediate capture. However, after two to three hours, a Pakistani Army Patrol captured him.[7]

Shooting down of wingman[edit]

Flying top cover to the MiG-27s was MiG-21M aircraft of No. 17 Squadron IAF. One of the pilots detailed to carry out battle damage assessment filming Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja left his station and came in low to locate Kambampati. He was fired at by a Pakistani made Anza Mark 1 (Surface to Air Missile) and was shot down. A postmortem examination conducted by Indian military authorities claimed that Ahuja had landed safely after ejecting from his plane, but had been killed by Pakistani soldiers at point blank. They fired straight through his head and heart. But the Pakistani authorities declared this Indian claim to be baseless by saying had they been on a killing mode, they would have killed Kambampati who even retaliated to avert his capture by firing through his pistol.[8] [9][10] It was reported that the left knee fracture was sustained when he parachuted down, but the gunshots show that he landed alive and was shot. And his death was called as a cold-blooded murder.[9]

Life as a prisoner[edit]

After being captured behind Pakistani lines after his MiG-27 crashed in a bombing run in 1999,[11] Kambampati remained in custody of Pakistani forces for eight days.[12] Kambampati was first taken to an undisclosed place in the Batalik Sector. After a two-hour wait, he was taken by helicopter to Skardu. After his return, Kambampati was not willing to disclose his experience while he was in captivity.

According to him, the experience was "difficult to be described in words" and felt that "death would have been a better solution". He still suffers from back pain due to his injury during the para-landing .[13]

He was interrogated by the Director of Operations of Pakistan Air Force, Group Captain Kaiser Tufail. This interrogation was termed as "very civil" by Kaiser who said it was a casual talk between two officers rather than the captor and a POW with a discussion about common issues in the two rival air forces. He expressed his mandate being to maintain the cordiality of a crew room and that he was detailed to inquire the circumstances of the ejection and the mission.[11]


Kambampati remained a prisoner for about a week and was repatriated to India on 3 June 1999. He was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan and subsequently was repatriated over the Indian border check post at Wagah, on the Lahore Amritsar Road.

Kambampati is a Group Captain and flies Ilyushin Il-78 mid air refuelling transport aircraft with No. 78 Squadron IAF stationed at Agra. He was transferred to transports due to injuries he sustained during para-landing.[13]

Vayusena Medal ribbon.svg IND Operation Vijay star.svg IND Operation Vijay medal.svg IND Special Service Medal Ribbon.svg
IND Sainya Seva Medal Ribbon.svg IND High Altitude Medal Ribbon.svg IND 50th Anniversary Independence medal.svg IND 9YearsServiceMedalRibbon.svg
Vayusena Medal
Operation Vijay Star
Operation Vijay Medal
Special Service Medal
Sainya Seva Medal
High Altitude Service Medal
50th Anniversary of Independence Medal
9 Years Long Service Medal


  1. ^ "Service Record of Flt. Lt. Kambampati Nachiketa 22930 F(P)". www.bharat-rakshak.com. Retrieved 20 October 2006.
  2. ^ Stamford, Lincs., U.K.: Air Forces Monthly, July 1999, Number 136, pages 74–75.
  3. ^ BBC News Service. India loses two jets
  4. ^ "The story of Kargil War hero Flight Lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa". Newsd www.newsd.in. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Flt. Lt. K. Nachiketa VM". Sam's Indian Air Force Down Under. Archived from the original on 26 October 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2006.
  6. ^ "Engine Flameout". bharat-rakshak.com. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  7. ^ "No fear of flying for this Kargil hero". Times of India. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2006.
  8. ^ Flight Lieutenant Nachiketa Rao, archived from the original on 20 April 2013
  9. ^ a b "'The family is both proud of Nachiketa and concerned about his well-being'". Rediff News. 30 May 1999. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  10. ^ Air Forces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, UK: Key Publishing Limited (136): Pages 74–75. July 1999. ISSN 0955-7091. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ a b "Amazed we had so much in common: Pak officer on Indian Kargil pilot". Indian Express. 13 June 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Flt Lt Nachiketa arrives in India". Rediff News. 4 June 1999. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  13. ^ a b Press Trust of India (15 July 2008). "Kargil's first Indian PoW back in sky, to fly mid-air refuellers". Indian Express. Retrieved 7 January 2012.