US Air Force deserter found after 35 years

Missing Air Force officer who created fake identity found 35 years later

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found

Hughes Jr. masqueraded as "Barry O'Beirne" for over 35 years after he deserted his post with the U.S. Air Force.

William Howard Hughes Jr. vanished in 1983 after returning from duty in Europe and withdrawing almost $30,000 from his bank account. He had been at Kirtland since 1981, working on highly classified operations involving NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems, according to the news release.

In the days and weeks after he failed to report for duty in Kirtland, investigators found his vehicle at the Albuquerque International Airport. But the Air Force never heard from him since he left for Europe. "After being confronted with inconsistencies about his identity, the individual admitted his true name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted from the US Air Force in 1983", the Air Force said.

His family speculated he was abducted.

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As it turns out, it appears to be exactly what Hughes did. In the wake of those disasters, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc reported in July of 1986 that intelligence officers believed the rockets may have been sabotaged with Hughes' help.

It is unknown whether family had been in contact with Hughes or knew of his whereabouts following his 1983 disappearance. He was questioned on Tuesday by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and maintained that his name was Barry O'Beirne.

After several rocket ship failures in the United States and France, including the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, Los Angeles Times journalist Tad Szulc theorised Capt Hughes may have been to blame. There were even rumors he might have been defected to the Soviet Union.

Hughes was single and stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he disappeared in July 1983, the Air Force said. One such anonymous official said, "He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them".

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Quoting anonymous intelligence sources, Szulc wrote that the intelligence community feared Hughes had either been captured by Soviets or that he voluntarily defected. "Due to his access to classified information he was declared a fugitive and was on a list of the USAF's seven most wanted individuals", says the BBC.

But Card said no classified information leaks are suspected, nor is there an indication that Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union, but the investigation is ongoing. But still, she said, the case remains under investigation.

He is being held at the 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.

"Until we have the whole story", she said, "we don't have the story".

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