Engine Flame Out!

It was 26 May 99.

The IAF had commenced air strikes the previous day and achieved good results. Task for me was to destroy the enemy positions with 40 deadly 80 mm rockets in the Batalik sub-sector. Ammunitions including the lethal 30 mm canons were loaded.

I took off in Hyena formation as No. 2 to 'Mando' - Sqn Ldr A Mandokhot. After a flight of fifteen minutes, our formation of MiG-27s reached snow covered mountains. We were over the target area. Despite the difficulty in identifying the features, 'Mando' had quickly oriented himself; and within seconds I was zeroing on the target. I saw the enemy concentration and let go all the 40 rockets in one salvo.

Having acquired the target I carried out a second attack, this time with 30 mm guns. This pass commenced at an altitude of 5.9 km and terminated at 5.8 km, after a one-second burst.  

I then eased out of the dive. As I went to the flares, I felt a backward jerk due to sudden deceleration. I noticed the RPM winding down and JPT dropping. I used the speed to gain height. The speed by then had dropped to 500 kmph. The RPM having dropped below 20% and correlating with reducing JPT, I realised that the engine had flamed out. I immediately jettisoned the rocket pods, swept the wings to 160 and attempted a relight. The leader having been informed, I continued lowering the attitude to maintain the speed which had fallen to 450 kmph (IAS).

The hills were fairly close and I turned right by 300 - 400 to avoid the hill features coming straight ahead. The valley was in a east-west direction, about 5 km away. With no signs of engine restarting, I realised that my height was critical and that I might not clear the northern edge of the bowl. Ejection was inevitable, so I gave an R/T call to my leader, 'Mando! Nachi ejecting!' and pulled the ejection handle.

The parachute opening shock brought me out of the grey out. The aircraft crashed into the edge of the hill and my seat had cleared the ridge. After about 10 - 15 seconds of para-descent, I landed on knee- deep snow and soft ice which cushioned the landing. On my landing, I saw some people running towards me from a distance of about 1-1.5 km. Bullets were fired from different directions. I could somehow escape the bullets but got into the enemy hands.

Till 03 Jun 99, I remained as PoW in Pakistan. 


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A MiG-27M of the Wolfpacks being loaded with a specially marked bomb Flt Lt K Nachiketa in captivity. Repatriation - At the Wagah border after being handed over by Pakistani Authorities Meeting with the Prime Minister Shri AB Vajpayee


Also Read:
1. IAF’s Kargil hero Nachiketa soars higher http://www.tribuneindia.com/2006/20060818/j&k.htm#3
2. No fear of flying for this Kargil hero : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/articleshow/msid-1896706,curpg-1.cms

 "I had a technical problem with the engine; my engine shut and I had to re-ignite. But you have to be flying at a certain height before you can do so. In my case, since I was flying over a terrain of five plus km, I did not have the adequate height. As a result, I had to eject.

About two to three hours after I ejected, I was ambushed and there was a fire fight. Regular Pakistani Army troops fired at me, I fired back. Eventually, I was captured because I was outnumbered. I had one pistol vis-à-vis five-six AK-56s.

After about a two-hour halt at a place in the Batalik sector, I was taken by a helicopter to Skardu. After a night halt, I was shifted to Rawalpindi. I stayed there for four days. Thereafter a decision to release me was taken and I came back via the Wagah border

They took it in two phases. First they declared me uncooperative. Then it became quite bad. I don't want to go into specifics. They asked me about our forces, their deployment, the kind of avionics and ammunition which we have.

The only thing I was planning from my side was escape. But that takes time. Initially, there is high security, and then slowly there is dilution. Being released by Pakistan was a surprise."

3. VIDEO : Kargil hero lives to tell his tale http://www.ibnlive.com/videos/19161/kargil-hero-lives-to-tell-his-tale.html
4. Kambampati Nachiketa on Wikipedia
5. Bharat Rakshak IAF Officers Database Page for Nachiketa
6. Nine years on, Kargil war hero recalls Pakistan captivity : http://www.southasiamonitor.org/2008/July/news/15gz1.shtml

"All attempts to re-ignite the engine failed and I had to eject at a place called Munthudalo - an enemy territory in a snow-capped mountain region. After landing, I saw myself surrounded by Pakistani troops. I exchanged fire using a Russian-made Makarov pistol. But I had to surrender as soon as I ran out of ammunition"

"I underwent severe mental and physical torture there for three-four days. On the seventh day, they decided to hand me over to the Red Cross and I finally came to my motherland through Islamabad with the help of the Indian Embassy"  

Acknowledgement: This article was taken from the IAF Journal 1999