US Air Force Deserter Found After Disappearing For 35 Years

Ex-Kirtland AFB officer missing since 1983 found

Authorities say an Air Force officer with top security clearance who disappeared in New Mexico 35 years ago has been found in California after using a false name for decades.

It said Hughes, who changed his name to Barry O'Beirne, admitted his true name after being confronted with inconsistencies about his identity.

Hughes was taken into custody by special agents from the Travis Air Force Base and is being held at the military base.

There are several other fugitives on the Air Force's wanted list, including others who have been on the run since the 1980s for various reasons ranging from drug charges to security issues, the AP said. But after leaving for Europe, he was never seen again.

Interviews with Hughes' friends and associates and inquiries with law enforcement agencies in the United States and overseas failed to locate him, the statement said, and he was formally declared a deserter on December 9, 1983.

He was officially declared a deserter on 9 December 1983, after interviews with friends and co-workers, and searches by law enforcement failed to give any clues about his location. The only clue Hughes left behind was a trail of bank withdrawals, where he pulled out $28,500 from 19 different branches.

Later that year, the unmarried Seattle native was declared a deserter - something one of his sisters refused to believe.

He had been involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.

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The veteran specialized in radar surveillance.

"Captain Hughes, who was single, was dispatched to the Netherlands on July 18, 1983, to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the operations of Airborne Warning and Control electronic surveillance aircraft", the statement said. Nevertheless speculation persisted that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

He had a Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation clearance, which meant he had access to USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secret information.

An article from Maddy Hayden for the Albuquerque Journal referenced a story from journo Tad Szulc about Hughes' disappearance in 1986, which suggested he'd defected to the Soviet Union.

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.

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".

Responding to Hughes' claims of deserting the air-force cause he was depressed, AFOSI spokeswoman Linda Card said there were many more questions to be answered as the investigation continues.

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