Missing Air Force officer with top-secret clearance found after 35 years

12 Junio, 2018, 00:58 | Author: Kelly Blake

An officer of the U.S. Air Force who disappeared 35 years ago, and was ultimately classified a deserter, has been found in California living under another name, authorities said.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations announced late last week that William Howard Hughes Jr. had been apprehended "without incident".

It was July 17, 1983, and the Air Force was sending Hughes overseas on a mission to help North Atlantic Treaty Organisation test aircraft surveillance systems.

Instead, investigators said Capt. Hughes went to 19 Albuquerque bank branches and withdrew a total of $28,500 from his account.

Hughes apparently lived in California under the assumed identity of Barry O'Beirne.

Hughes, now 66, was charged with desertion and is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California. He faces up to five years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force.

What do we know about Capt Hughes?

Hughes was supposed to travel to the Netherlands in July 1983 to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the operations of AWACS electronic surveillance planes.

News reports told of the high ranking Air Force officer being 33 years old single when he 'mysteriously' disappeared in the summer of 1983.

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At the time of his disappearance in 1983, Hughes, then 31, was assigned to the Kirtland-based Air Force Operation Test and Evaluation Center.

The Office of Special Investigations declined to comment further on the case, telling ABC News the Air Force has nothing more to add until its legal department moves forward with a recommendation. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".

There was even speculation that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

Air Force Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. started at Kirtland in 1981, working on NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems.

In the years after Hughes went missing, a slew of NASA catastrophes, such as the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, as well as the explosion of the Ariane rocket in French Guinea, caused national security commentators to speculate whether the disasters were related and possibly the result of Soviet sabotage.

"Intelligence officers point out that Hughes' knowledge of all the top-secret rocket launch procedures was invaluable to the Soviets", Mr Szulc wrote in July 1986.

Hughes' sister, Christine Hughes, told the Associated Press in a January 1984 article that the family believed he had been abducted, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

"He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them", Szulc quotes an unidentified intelligence officer as telling him.

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