Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon
|Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon|
July 17, 1943|
Isewal, Ludhiana, Punjab
|Died||December 14, 1971
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
|Service/branch||Indian Air Force|
|Years of service||1967–1971|
|Unit||Squadron No. 18
"The Flying Bullets"
|Battles/wars||Indo-Pakistani War of 1971|
|Awards||Param Vir Chakra (posthumous)|
Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, PVC (17 July 1943 - 14 December 1971) was an officer of the Indian Air Force. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military decoration, in recognition of his lone defence of Srinagar Air Base against a Pakistani air raid during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. He is the only member of the Indian Air Force to be so honoured.
Early life 
Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was born on July 17, 1943 in the village of ISEWAL DAKHA in Ludhiana District, Punjab. He was the son of Warrant Officer Hon. Flight Lieutenant Tarlochan Singh Sekhon. He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force on June 4, 1967 as a Flying Officer.
Param Vir Chakra Award 
During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, he was assigned to the No. 18 Squadron, "The Flying Bullets", flying the Folland Gnat fighter aircraft based at Srinagar. On 14 December 1971, Srinagar airfield was attacked by six Pakistan Air Force F-86 jets. Flying Officer Sekhon was on readiness duty at that time. Soon the enemy aircraft attacked the airfield, strafing ground targets. Under heavy fire, he was able to take off in his Gnat and engage the Sabres. Despite many search efforts by army and airforce his corpse was never found due to the mountainous terrain of where his fighter went down, much to the disappointment of his wife and family.
In the ensuing air battle, Sekhon scored a direct hit on one Sabre and set another ablaze. The latter was seen heading away towards Rajauri, trailing smoke. The four remaining Sabres pressed the attack, and after a lengthy dog-fight at tree-top level, Sekhon's aircraft was hit, and he was killed. The remaining Pakistani aircraft returned to Pakistan without pressing the attack.
The bravery, flying skill and determination displayed by Flying Officer Sekhon earned him India's highest wartime medal for gallantry, the Param Vir Chakra. His skill was later praised in an article by Salim Baig Mirza, the pilot who shot him down.
The citation for the Param Vir Chakra awarded to him reads:
Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was a pilot of a Folland Gnat detachment based at Srinagar for the air defence of the valley against Pakistani air attacks. In accordance with the international agreement dating back to 1948, no air defence aircraft were based at Sirinagar, until the outbreak of hostilities with Pakistan. Flying Officer Sekhon was, therefore, unfamiliar with the terrain and was not acclimatised to the altitude of Srinagar, especially with the bitter cold and biting winds of the Kashmir winter. Nevertheless, from the outset of the war, he and his colleagues fought successive waves of intruding Pakistani aircraft with valour and determination, maintaining the high reputation of the Folland Gnat aircraft. On 14 December 1971, Srinagar Airfield was attacked by a wave of six enemy Sabre aircraft. Flying Officer Sekhon was on readiness duty at the time. However, he could not take off at once because of the clouds of dust raised by another aircraft which had just taken off. By the time the runway was fit for take-off, no fewer than six enemy aircraft were overhead, and strafing of the airfield was in progress. Nevertheless, in spite of the mortal danger of attempting to take off during an attack, and in spite of the odds against him. Flying Officer Sekhon took off and immediately engaged a pair of the attacking Sabres. In the fight that followed, at tree top height, he all but held his own, but was eventually overcome by sheer weight of numbers. His aircraft crashed and he was killed. In thus, sacrificing himself for the defence of Srinagar, Flying Officer Sekhon achieved his object, for the enemy aircraft fled from the scene of the battle without pressing home their attack against the town and the airfield. The sublime heroism, supreme gallantry, flying skill and determination, above and beyond the call of duty, displayed by Flying Officer Sekhon in the face of certain death, set new heights to Air Force traditions.
Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon is remembered for his gallantry and statues of him have also been erected in many cities in Punjab.
A marine tanker built in 1985 was named Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, PVC.
- "IAF scales 3 virgin peaks in Ladakh region". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
- "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Ludhiana Stories". Tribuneindia.com. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
- "Air Battles December 1971-My Experience". Defencejournal.com. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
- Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon's citation of the Param Vir Chakra at Bharat-Rakshak.com.
- File Photo of Marine Tanker Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Shekhon, PVC
- A tribute on Bharat-Rakshak
- A tribute to Nirmal Jit
- At Sikh History
- Profile of Sekhon on Tribune India
- Jai Hind Jai Bharat