14 December 1971 – The Tree Top Dogfight

We all know that there is only one Param Veer Chakra in Indian Air Force, i.e Flying Officer Nirmal Jeet Sekhon { Squadron No. 18 – The Flying Bullets }. Now I am going to tell you the story of that Tree Top Dogfight, a story which inspires us in all aspects of life that how a person should dedicate himself/herself towards their duty. A story which tells us that there is nothing bigger than your nation and the national flag and your duty should be your religion. So Let's start

14 December 1971

In accordance with the international agreement dating back to 1948, no air defence aircraft were based at Srinagar until the hostilities broke down between India and Pakistan. Flying officer Sekhon was a Gnat pilot of 18 Squadron "The Flying Bullets". As per the agreement, there was no air defence aircraft in the Srinagar, so pilots were not that much familiar with the terrain. They were not accustomed to the bitter cold and biting winters of Kashmir. Nevertheless, Flying Officer NJS Sekhon and his colleagues fought successive waves of intruding Pakistani aircraft.

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 was on readiness duty that time, As soon as the first aircraft attacked, he rolled as No.2 for take off in a two Gnat formation with F/L Ghumman in lead, just as the first bombs were falling on the runway. He could not start his jet immediately as the dust storm from the first drop was clearing.

By the time runway was fit for take-off, six enemy aircraft were overheard an attack on the airfield was overhead. In spite of the immense danger of attempting to take off during an attack, Flying Officer NJS Sekhon took off and immediately engaged a pair of attacking Sabres. In this air battle, he made a direct hit on one Sabre and set another ablaze. The latter was seen heading away towards Rajauri, trailing smoke.

Preparing for SSB?

He succeeded in damaging two of the enemy aircraft. It was a treetop dogfight in which Flying Officer NJS Sekhon held his own but was eventually came down by sheer weight of numbers. Flying Officer NJS was advised to return to base after being hit, it is believed that he had flown in the straight, wings level for some time, then going inverted, plummeting down, probably due to the failure of the control system. He attempted a last-minute ejection, which did not prove successful, as his canopy was seen to fly off.

His aircraft crashed and he was martyred but his sacrifice did not go in vain. The Sabre jets, unable to complete their attack on the town and its airfield, immediately retreated and fled the scene. The true heroism, exemplary courage, flying skill, and determination, above and beyond the call of duty displayed by Flying Officer Sekhon, was in the finest tradition of the IAF. His bravery and skill, against odds of 1 to 6, earned him India’s highest wartime medal for gallantry, the “Param Vir Chakra”.

Fg Officer Sekhon was the first officer of the IAF to have received the nation’s highest gallantry award, “Param Vir Chakra” and continues to be remembered as one of the greatest air warriors of the IAF.

JAI HIND

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