K Nachiketa
Born (1973-05-31) 31 May 1973 (age 48)
Allegiance India
Service/branch Indian Air Force
Years of service1990 – 2017
Group Captain
UnitNo. 9 Squadron
No.48 Squadron
No.78 Squadron
Battles/warsKargil War
Vayusena Medal

Group Captain Kambampati Nachiketa Rao, VM is a retired officer of the Indian Air Force.[1] While carrying out an Airstrike on Pakistani positions in Batalik sector during the Kargil War, he was shot down and captured on 27 May 1999 by a Pakistani Unit led by Capt. Rao Tahseen Ali. Nachiketa ejected from his MiG-27L[2] and was held in Pakistani custody as the first and only Indian prisoner of war of that conflict.[3] He is presently a Captain in Indigo Airlines.

Early life

Nachiketa was born on 31 may 1973 to Sri. K. R. K. Sastry and Smt. K. Laxmi.[4] He studied at Kendriya Vidyalaya in Delhi, and joined the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla.

Kargil War

During the Kargil War, Nachiketa was a Flight Lieutenant and a Mikoyan MiG-27 pilot from No. 9 Squadron IAF (Wolfpack) who took part in a strike in the Batalik Sector on 26 May 1999.[5] Armed with 80mm rockets and the aircraft's 30mm cannon, Nachiketa attacked an enemy position. During the operation, the aircraft took a hit from a Pakistan army MANPADS and Nachiketa was forced to eject.

After ejecting, Nachiketa evaded immediate capture but after two to three hours, a Pakistani army patrol captured him.[6] Nachiketa continued to fire his service pistol till he ran out of bullets and was arrested. He was taken to a prison in Rawalpindi where he was beaten up by Pakistani soldiers until a senior officer intervened. Speaking to NDTV in 2016, Nachiketa said, "The jawans who had captured me were trying to manhandle me and maybe trying to kill me because, for them, I was just an enemy pilot who had fired on their locations from the air... Fortunately, the officer who came was very mature. He realised the situation that I am now a captive and now I need not be handled that way. So he was able to control them, which was a big effort because they were very aggressive at that stage."[7]

Life as a prisoner

Nachiketa remained in the custody of Pakistani forces for eight days.[8] He was first taken to an undisclosed location in the Batalik. After a two-hour wait, he was taken by helicopter to Skardu.

He was interrogated by the Director of Operations of the Pakistan Air Force, Group Captain Kaiser Tufail. This interrogation was called "very civil" by Tufail, who said it was a casual talk between two officers rather than the captor and a POW. Tufail said his mandate was to inquire the circumstances of the ejection and the mission.[9]


Nachiketa was repatriated to India on 3 June 1999. He was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan and was subsequently repatriated over the Indian border check post at Attari on the Amritsar-to-Lahore road. Nachiketa described his experiences in captivity as "difficult to be described in words" and said he felt "death would have been a better solution".[10]

Subsequent career

Nachiketa was promoted to Group Captain and flew Ilyushin Il-78 mid-air refuelling transport aircraft with No. 78 Squadron IAF stationed at Agra. He suffers from long-term back pain due to injury sustained during the parachute landing while he lost his Mig-27 in an engine flame out when he was shot down over Pakistan during the 1999 Kargil conflict[10]

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)". bharat-rakshak.com. Retrieved 20 October 2006.
  2. ^ Stamford, Lincs., U.K.: Air Forces Monthly, July 1999, Number 136, pages 74–75.
  3. ^ "The story of Kargil War hero Flight Lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa". Newsd www.newsd.in. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Flt. Lt. K. Nachiketa VM". Sam's Indian Air Force Down Under. Archived from the original on 26 October 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2006.
  5. ^ "Engine Flameout". bharat-rakshak.com. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  6. ^ "No fear of flying for this Kargil hero". Times of India. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2006.
  7. ^ http://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kambampati-nachiketa-kargil-war-india-pakistan-indian-pilot-arrested-1466400-2019-02-27
  8. ^ "Flt Lt Nachiketa arrives in India". Rediff News. 4 June 1999. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  9. ^ "Amazed we had so much in common: Pak officer on Indian Kargil pilot". Indian Express. 13 June 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  10. ^ 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.