Heroic Encounter over Srinagar: Flying Officer NJS Sekhon

36 × 24 inches

This is my painting on Fg Offr NJS Sekhon’s heroic battle when pitted against possible six F-86 Sabres of PAF over Srinagar airfield on December 14, 1971.

In the morning of 14 December 1971, Fg Offr NJS Sekhon was on operational readiness platform (ORP) duty with Flt Lt BS Ghumman at Srinagar airfield. Taking the mountainous terrain as cover and lack of any credible early warning six Sabrejets of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) attacked the base with bombs achieving complete element of surprise. As the raiders were detected very late, it was decided by the Base Commanders not to scramble the Gnats on the ORP duty. However, this decision could not be communicated to the pilots and seeing the base under attack both pilots decided to take off disregarding their own safety even when the bombswere falling on the runway. Immediately after takeoff Sekhon spotted two enemy aircraft ahead of him and started positioning for a gun shot. Ghumman had lost contact with his No.2 and could not join the combat. Sekhon realized that he has to fight with a numerically superior force all by his own. But he remained in the combat and as he closed into the first Sabre, he opened fire forcing the enemy to disengage and run away. Sekhon then got into combat with another Sabre whose pilot was later identified as the Commanding Officer of the Sabre squadron. With limited experience Sekhon dominated the combat with vastly experienced Pakistani pilot and started to get better of him. Sekhon’s gallant action to take on a numerical superior force singlehandedly with his limited experience was like that of a gladiator who enters the arena for a “fight to finish”. Sekhon was however, heavily outnumbered and his lone fight against six came to a heroic end as the leader of the escort pair positioned behind Sekhon and opened fire from a close range. Sekhon’s aircraft was seen to go out of control and impact the ground below very close to the airfield. Flt Lts Salim Baig Mirza, an experienced fighter pilot of PAF who was responsible for shooting down Sekhon writes in his blog, “The Indian pilot Fg Offr Nirmal Jeet SinghSekhon put up a brave fight”. No word can probably express the true grit of this young lad. His citation states of:

Sublime heroism, supreme gallantry, flying skill and determination above and beyond the call of duty displayed by Sekhon in the face of certain death”.


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