That led investigators to theorize he returned from the Netherlands early and then vanished. He was 33 years old. Back in 1984, his family said that Hughes had likely been kidnapped.
An Air Force captain with top-secret clearance who disappeared in 1983 has been found in California living under an assumed name, and now he's under arrest, theAlbuquerque Journal reported. The only clue Hughes left behind was a trail of bank withdrawals, where he pulled out $28,500 from 19 different branches.
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.
A spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told the Albuquerque Journal there's no sign Hughes leaked classified information or was involved with the Soviet Union, but that investigations are underway.
Hughes is charged with desertion and awaiting pretrial confinement at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif.More news: Putin says willing to meet Trump whenever US is ready
It's unclear if he had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations says Hughes was an officer with top security clearance who disappeared in New Mexico in 1983 and was arrested in California last week. In this photo, the Air Force Thunderbirds are seen rehearsing their precision flying routine, in Forestville, Maryland, Sept. 18, 2015.
He was initially thought to be have been abducted.
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.
At the time of his disappearance, he owned a house in Albuquerque.More news: White House seeks to block Congress from killing ZTE deal
After investigators confronted him with inconsistencies about his identity, the man admitted his true name was William Howard Hughes Jr. and he deserted from the Air Force in 1983.
He had a Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation clearance, which meant he had access to US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secret information.
He was assigned to the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB, in New Meixco where his duties included classified planning and analysis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command, control, and communications surveillance systems.
Family, close friends and co-workers had claimed they didn't know his whereabouts, and law enforcement agencies in the United States and overseas couldn't locate him.
He was supposed to return back to duty in Albuquerque by August of that year only to never show up.More news: Justify's Triple Crown win caps a magical run for Canadian breeders
Hughes is now at Travis Air Force Base awaiting pretrial confinement.