India is a vast country and its boundaries are protected by Army, Air Force, and Navy. We are living in our country without worry just because of our brave soldiers who protect us like a ‘shield’. They sacrifice their lives for the welfare of the nation and provide us a safe nation to live. Today, we are going to talk about the soldier who fought for the nation with grit and determination and shot down 6 Pakistani fighter jets to save the Srinagar airbase.
Showing courage, Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon fought against the Pakistan air force during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. He was honored with the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military award for defending Srinagar Airbase against PAF during the war. He is the only soldier of the Indian Air Force to be so honored.
Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was born on 17 July 1943 in the village of Isewal, Ludhiana, Punjab. Sekhon was inducted into Indian Air Force as a pilot on June 4, 1967. He was deployed in Srinagar when the Indo-Pak 1971 war took place. On 14 December 1971, four Pakistani fighter jets set out towards India with a mission to destroy the Srinagar airbase. As they flew over Indian soil they were spotted by soldiers at an observation post. Immediately air traffic control contacted the operational readiness platform (ORP) with a message to launch their defensive fighter jets. The message was received by Flight Lt. Ghumman and Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon. Within seconds both officers were ready to take off but, before they could the anti-aircraft guns had started firing at the intruders.
The air was thick with dust and debris and unable to wait any longer for the command to go ahead. Ghumman took off to face the enemy but visibility was too low for Sekhon to follow. Sekhon took off 20 seconds later and he was just in time. Two bombs exploded on the runway right behind him and the enemy’s fighter jets were straight overhead. Sekhon spotted the target and began pursued. The Pakistani pilot had dropped the bomb and flown right back. Sekhon spoke into the microphone but Ghumman was nowhere inside. The two pilots had lost communication with each other and Sekhon alone to confront enemies all by himself. Fighting bravely against an odd of 1:6, Nirmaljeet Singh Sekhon stunned his enemies with his aircraft maneuvers. He hit a Sabre directly and set ablaze another. Sekhon fought bravely and compelled enemies to leave the airbase.
Unfortunately, Sekhon’s aircraft got hit in the battle and was advised to take steps back, but he kept on fighting bravely instead of returning to the base. The last-minute ejection malfunctioned too resulting in the pilot going down alongside the aircraft. His body was never recovered and remains a matter of grief to his family. The PAF pilot Salim Baig Mirza who hit Sekhon’s aircraft also praised latter’s courage in an article published years after Sekhon’s demise.
A marine tanker was also named after Nimaljeet Singh, PVC which was built in 1985. A statue of the IAF pilot was erected in the District Court of Ludhiana along with a decommissioned Gnat aircraft. Another statue of him is placed in the Indian Air Force Museum at Palam along with another decommissioned Gnat plane.
When we hear the valour of our soldiers, then we are surprised as well as feel proud and inspired. Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon is not just a name but also pride of the nation who will keep on inspiring all of us forever. He will be remembered for his bravery by generations.