The Flying Hero of the Indo-Pak war of 1971, Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was born on July 17, 1945 in the Ludhiana district of Punjab. Nirmal Jit Singh’s father was also an ex-Indian Air Force pilot, which motivated him to continue the family tradition of serving the country. On June 4 1967, he was commissioned into the Indian Air Force.
During the Indo-Pak war of 1971, Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was deployed at the Srinagar airbase with the No. 18 squadron, better known as the Flying Bullets of the Indian Air Force. On December 14th, 1971, two days before the Indo-Pak war came to an end, the airfield at Srinagar was attacked by the Pakistan Air Force. A wave of six enemy Sabre aircrafts of the PAF was commissioned to bomb the Kashmir valley. Undeterred by the intense attack and facing all the odds against him, as soon as his leader Flight Lieutenant Ghumman took off, Flying Officer Sekhon rolled for take-off No.2 in a two Gnat formation. Sensing the grave danger pondering over his country, in less than 20 seconds, the first aircraft took off and the Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was in the skies in no time. It was a six versus one fight with four Pakistani aircrafts overhead and two aircrafts as emergency backup at a higher altitude. Due to an international agreement of 1948, no defense aircraft could be commissioned at Srinagar, resultantly, Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was unfamiliar and unaware with the high altitude, climate and terrain of Srinagar.
In the ensuing assault, he immediately hit one of the Pakistani Sabre aircrafts directly. The other aircrafts, sensing the danger, immediately sent an SOS signal to the other two aircrafts that were flying in the high altitudes which were sent as emergency backups. In the air fight that followed, Sekhon set another Sabre aircraft ablaze. Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was soon outnumbered and was therefore advised to return to the airbase. Sekhon’s aircraft was hit by the Sabre aircrafts. Because of the hit, his aircraft started descending and the ejection proved futile. The debris of the aircraft was found in a gorge.
For his act of heroic bravery and impregnable courage, he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration posthumously. Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon touched the skies with glory. Till date, he remains the only member of the Indian Air Force to the awarded the Param Vir Chakra.