Last week, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service was conducting an interview during a passport fraud investigation.
An undated picture of Capt. William Howard Hughes, Jr.
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.
Hughes was unmarried at the time, but had three sisters.
Agents from the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations took Hughes into custody at his California home Wednesday, the Air Force said.More news: After 'difficult' G7 summit, May warns against unilateral action on trade
Hughes told authorities he was depressed about being in the Air Force and chose to leave.
William Howard Hughes Jr. was formally declared a deserter by the Air Force on December 9, 1983.
Instead, investigators said Capt. Hughes went to 19 Albuquerque bank branches and withdrew a total of $28,500 from his account. He had been at Kirtland since 1981, working on highly classified operations involving NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems, according to the news release.
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. Hughes was expected back on duty from a short stint in Europe on August 1, 1983 but he never reported to duty.
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.
He is now being held at Travis Air Force Base in California, faced with charges of peacetime desertion, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.More news: North Korea media breaks tradition to report summit
As it turns out, it appears to be exactly what Hughes did.
Later in 1986, a Los Angeles Times article also speculated that Hughes had defected to the Soviet Union.
Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal Sunday that to this day officials still do not have any evidence indicating leaks of classified information.
"Szulc quoted an unidentified intelligence officer who told him, "[Hughes] is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them". He faces up to five years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force. Hughes also had top security clearance and deserted his post on July 25, 1983.
"They (AFOSI investigators) said at this point there's no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information..."
"Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story", Card said.More news: Liverpool target's future to be sorted before the World Cup