Air Force officer missing for 35 years found in California

A U.S. Air Force officer with top-secret clearance was reportedly found 35 years after he was declared missing.

Before he mysteriously disappeared and landed on the Air Force Most Wanted list, Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. phoned home to tell his mother and father that he was going to the Netherlands. In July 1983, Hughes had been assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers "on the operations of Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft" but never resurfaced after leaving for Europe.

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

At the time of his "abrupt" disappearance, Hughes specialized in radar surveillance.

According to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), the State Department was recently investigating a man claiming to be "Barry O'Beirne" during a passport fraud inquiry. Hughes had been claiming to be an individual named Barry O'Beirne but admitted that he was actually named William Howard Hughes, Jr. and that he had deserted the air force, the OSI said.

Although Hughes told the authorities he abandoned his air force career because he had gotten "depressed", and assumed a fake identity before settling down in California, the AFOSI authorities said there were a number of questions that still remain unanswered regarding his disappearance, which will be revealed as investigation into his actions continued.

Hughes "was the "lead analyst" of the Command Control and Communication Surveillance Systems at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., which tests new space-related weapons systems", the Times said.

"These include the apparent defection to the Soviet Union in 1983 of the U.S. Air Force's leading expert on rocket self-destruct procedures" - meaning Hughes. His sister Christine said, "We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", detailed the Albuquerque Journal. 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".

Military officials said Hughes had access only to secret information pertinent to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

A man who deserted from the US Air Force in July 1983 has been apprehended in California, the US military says.

"Until we have the whole story", she said, "we don't have the story". If convicted, he might face maximum penalties of dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and confinement of five years.

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