Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon

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Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon
Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon PVC
Born (1943-07-17)July 17, 1943
Isewal, Ludhiana, Punjab
Died December 14, 1971(1971-12-14) (aged 28)
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Allegiance India
Service/branch Indian Air Force
Years of service 1967–1971
Rank Flying Officer
Unit Squadron No. 18
"The Flying Bullets"
Battles/wars Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Awards Param-Vir-Chakra-ribbon.svg 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 PAF air raid during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. He is the only member of the Indian Air Force to be so honoured.[1]

Postal Stamp issued by Indian government in the honour of Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon
Statue of Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon and his aircraft, 10 sep 2013
Postal Stamp issued by Indian Military in the honour of Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon

Early life[edit]

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 Flight Lieutenant Tarlochan Singh Sekhon.[2] He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force on June 4, 1967 as a Flying Officer.

Param Vir Chakra Award[edit]

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, he was serving with the No. 18 Squadron, "The Flying Bullets" of IAF, 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 of 26 Sqn from PAF base Peshawar. Flying Officer Sekhon was on readiness duty at that time. As soon as the first aircraft attacked, Flg Off Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon of No 18 Squadron rolled for take-off as No 2 in a two-Gnat formation, with Flt Lt Ghumman in lead, just as the first bombs were falling on the runway. Only delayed due to dust kicked up by the preceding Gnat, Sekhon lost no time in singling out the first Sabre pair, which was re-forming after the bombing run. The Gnat Leader, Flt Lt Ghuman lost visual with his wingman just after take-off, remained out of the fight leaving Sekhon to handle the muddle all by himself.

In the ensuing air battle, Sekhon scored a direct hit on one Sabre[citation needed] and set another ablaze.,[citation needed] though it has been denied by all the sources of PAF. The latter was seen heading away towards Rajauri, trailing smoke.[citation needed]

Sekhon, after being hit, was advised to return to the base. He is said to have flew in straight, wings level for some time, then going inverted, plummeting down, probably due failure of control system. He attempted a last minute ejection, which didnot prove successful, as his canopy was seen to fly off. The wreckage of the Gnat was found in a gorge, near the road coming from Srinagar town to the base, a few miles from the Base. 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.

A detailed story of his valiant effort has been mentioned in fairly detailed account by Air Cdre Kaiser Tufail.[3] His skill was later also praised in an article by Salim Baig Mirza, the pilot who shot him down.[4] The bravery, flying skill and determination displayed by Flying Officer Sekhon, against an odd of 1:6, earned him India's highest wartime medal for gallantry, the Param Vir Chakra.

Citation[edit]

The citation for the Param Vir Chakra awarded to him reads:

Fg Offr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon
18 Squadron 10877 F(P)

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.

Honours[edit]

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.

Legacy and depictions in popular culture[edit]

A statue in tribute of Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was erected at the district court of Ludhiana in the courtyard next to the flag pole. A decommissioned Folland Gnat fighter is part of the memorial and serves as a gate guardian.


References[edit]

  1. ^ "IAF scales 3 virgin peaks in Ladakh region". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 
  2. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Ludhiana Stories". Tribuneindia.com. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 
  3. ^ "A Hard Nut to Crack". kaiser-aeronaut.blogspot.com/. Retrieved 2014-02-02. 
  4. ^ "Air Battles December 1971-My Experience". Defencejournal.com. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 

External links[edit]