Sunday, 24 June, 2018

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found US Air Force Nabs Deserter After 35 Years
Steven Clarke | 12 June, 2018, 05:00

But federal authorities were interviewing a man named Barry O'Beirne last Tuesday as part of a passport fraud investigation, and when they challenged him over his identity's inconsistencies, he said he was Hughes and had deserted the Air Force in 1983, the news release said.

An undated picture of Capt. William Howard Hughes, Jr. He was working at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at the Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

In December 1983, Air Force officials declared Capt. Hughes to be a deserter.

He told authorities after his capture Wednesday that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave, saying he created a fake identity and lived in California since he vanished in 1983.

Captain William Howard Hughes Jr, now 66, was last seen withdrawing $28,000 from a bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the summer of 1983.

According to the USAF, his duties included "classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control and communications surveillance systems". Hughes was expected back on duty from a short stint in Europe on August 1, 1983 but he never reported to duty.

Hughes was assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands, working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to test its new Airborne Warning and Control System, created to be used for surveillance, command and control, battle space management and communications. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

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He is now being held at Travis air force base awaiting charges. If convicted, he might face maximum penalties of dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and confinement of five years.

In a 1986 Los Angeles Times commentary titled "Sabotaged Missile Launches?" for example, the former longtime New York Times foreign correspondent Tad Szulc wrote: "The French and American accidents are adding up to a freaky pattern, surrounded by unusual coincidences and unexplained events, deeply preoccupying Western intelligence".

Told one of Hughes' three sisters at the time, 'We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily'.

Mr Szulc also said an intelligence officer told him Capt Hughes was "worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future "Star Wars".

An Office of Special Investigations spokeswoman told the Albuquerque Journal that there's no indication Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union or that any classified information was leaked. "Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story".

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.

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