Flying Officer Nirmal Jit 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.
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 smokeThe 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.