Officer 35 years on lam arrested

Hughes, now 66, was last seen after returning from a two week vacation in Europe and withdrawing more than $28.5K from 19 different locations in Albuquerque.

Capt Hughes is now being held at Travis Air Force Base in California, a statement from the USAF's office of special investigations said.

Hughes was taken into custody without incident and is at Travis Air Force Base in California awaiting pre-trial confinement, the Air Force said.

"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 U.S. Air Force in 1983", an AFOSI news release reads.

But AFOSI spokeswoman Linda Card said there are many more questions to be answered as the investigation continues.

His sister, Christine Hughes, maintained that her brother would never defect or disappear without leaving a note, she told Associated Press in 1984.

At the time, Hughes was single and assigned to an Air Force center in New Mexico, where he had responsibilities including "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems", the Air Force said.

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At the time of his disappearance, the Air Force said Hughes had a "Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation" clearance. Prior to his "capture", Hughes had been formally declared a deserter by the Air Force Dec. 9, 1983.

Hughes told authorities he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave.

He has been living under the alias Barry O'Beirne since then. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

He has been living in California under a fake identity ever since his defection. The news of Hughes' disappearance made headlines the following year, with a front-page Albuquerque Journal announcing "Kirtland Launches Search for Officer Missing 5 Months" on January 17, 1984. Hughes's disappearance, in the eyes of some, fit right into the puzzle.

"He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them", one intelligence officer told the Times. But eventually the Air Force and Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had no evidence indicating any top-secret information had been leaked or that Hughes engaged in espionage.

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

Hughes faces desertion charges, which carries a maximum of five years in prison. Friends and co-workers also didn't provide any information, the Air Force said.

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