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Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon

Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon

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Flying Officer
Flying Officer
Flying officer is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence...

 Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, PVC
Param Vir Chakra
The Param Vir Chakra is India's highest military decoration awarded for the highest degree of valour or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy. It can be, and often has been, awarded posthumously....

 (17 July 1943 - 14 December 1971) was an officer of the Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict...

. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra
Param Vir Chakra
The Param Vir Chakra is India's highest military decoration awarded for the highest degree of valour or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy. It can be, and often has been, awarded posthumously....

, India's highest military decoration, in recognition of his lone defence of Srinagar
Srinagar
Srinagar is the summer seasonal capital of Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated in Kashmir Valley and lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus. It is one of the largest cities in India not to have a Hindu majority. The city is famous for its gardens, lakes and houseboats...

 Air Base against a Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

i air raid during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

. He is the only member of the Indian Air Force to be so honoured.

Early life


Sekhon, a jat Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

, was born on July 17, 1943 in the village of ISEWAL DAKHA in Ludhiana District, Punjab
Punjab region
The Punjab , also spelled Panjab |water]]s"), is a geographical region straddling the border between Pakistan and India which includes Punjab province in Pakistan and the states of the Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and some northern parts of the National Capital Territory of Delhi...

. He was the son of Warrant Officer Hon. Flight Lieutenant Tarlochan Singh Sekhon.http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030131/ldh1.htm 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
Folland Gnat
The Folland Gnat was a small, swept-wing British subsonic jet trainer and light fighter aircraft developed by Folland Aircraft for the Royal Air Force, and flown extensively by the Indian Air Force....

 fighter aircraft
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 based at Srinagar. On 14 December 1971, Srinagar airfield was attacked by six Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
The Pakistan Air Force is the leading air arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport...

 F-86
F-86 Sabre
The North American F-86 Sabre was a transonic jet fighter aircraft. Produced by North American Aviation, the Sabre is best known as America's first swept wing fighter which could counter the similarly-winged Soviet MiG-15 in high speed dogfights over the skies of the Korean War...

 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.

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.http://www.defencejournal.com/2000/sept/air-battles.htmhttp://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/airforce/1971war/sbmirza.html

Citation


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
Folland Gnat
The Folland Gnat was a small, swept-wing British subsonic jet trainer and light fighter aircraft developed by Folland Aircraft for the Royal Air Force, and flown extensively by the Indian Air Force....

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


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.

External links