This article is about the mission type. For the soldier on temporary assignment, see Covert Operative.
XComEW EXALT Cov Op Agent and Encoder

Covert Operations are a new mission type introduced in XCOM: Enemy Within. These tactical missions are used to combat the new threat posed by EXALT. Their names and their locations around the globe are randomized.

Covert Operation TypesEdit

When an EXALT cell is detected, a Covert Operative can be sent in for preliminary duties before a squad is dispatched. Unlike most missions, the specific objective of a Covert Operation varies among a sub-set of two mission types:

  • Covert Data Recovery: Requires the defense of an Encoder and a Transmitter against a large horde of aggressive EXALT agents in a King of the Hill-type scenario until all enemies are eliminated.
  • Covert Extraction: Requires the Covert Operative to hack two specific EXALT Comm Arrays and then safely reach the extraction zone.  This mission does not actually require the complete elimination of the enemy for success.

Note:  If the game is saved shortly before a Covert Operation, reloading allows the possibility of switching between the two types of mission; this is not possible if playing in Ironman mode. Extraction missions involve a wider variety of maps and are relatively easier early on, but some Data Recovery maps allow soldiers to annihilate EXALT forces before they become a threat - mainly with Overwatch.


In response to EXALT's operations (which start in May), the Council provides XCOM with additional resources to counter these subversive activities. Accessing the new Covert Operations menu in the Situation Room allows XCOM to perform Intel Scans for hidden EXALT cells. The first scan performed each month costs §50. Subsequent scans cost double the previous scan, and the cost is reset to §50 at the beginning of each month. Exposed cells (either by their own actions or as a result of intel scans) are unable to perform operations against XCOM, but will only remain revealed for a few days before disappearing to another location. More importantly, XCOM can initiate Covert Operations against identified cells (but only one cell at time).

Keys to Global Covert Operations
  1. EXALT operates with cells. Initiate covert ops missions to neutralize individual cells. Eliminating those cells will recover intel you will need to locate the EXALT base.
  2. EXALT cells are not always visible. Purchase an intel scan to reveal them. Hidden cells can hurt XCOM or the countries they are operating in.

XCOM: Enemy Within

Covert Operations require the dispatching of a Covert Operative. Once dispatched, the Covert Operative spends several days infiltrating the local EXALT cell and then signals for extraction once their assignment is complete. Extracting the Covert Operative triggers one of two Covert Operation mission types; not extracting them within 2 days(verification required, at least 33 hours) results in the Covert Operative being permanently lost.

Mission SiteEdit

There are 10 maps available for each mission type with some utilizing new maps introduced with Enemy Within and others give a new spin on existing Enemy Unknown maps.

Enemy TypesEdit

Covert Operations pit XCOM's soldiers against the enemy forces of EXALT. During early missions the squad encounters basic EXALT troops, but as time progresses XCOM begins to face EXALT's elite soldiers.


XComEW EXALT Comm Array

EXALT Communications Array

For either mission type, the player sends a regular squad which they control as usual, as well as the Covert Operative who begins at a different location on the map. Covert Operatives retain all their abilities (and Gene Mods) and gain the EXALT Comm Hack ability which allows them to hack an EXALT Comm Array to disrupt EXALT communications which disables their agents from using their main weapons during the following turn.

EXALT soldiers utilize a new squad AI and are proficient in combined arms combat. They utilize their abilities and equipment to full effect; i.e. Medics deploy Smoke Grenades to cover exposed allies, EXALT Snipers seek high ground, and units with grenades and rockets target clustered XCOM units.


Successful Covert Operations yield EXALT Intel that grants clues to the location of EXALT's headquarters; these clues are along the vein of "The EXALT base is not in Africa" or "The EXALT base is in an English-speaking country." While only three clues are needed for XCOM to attempt a base raid, additional intel helps to narrow down the list of suspect countries. This is important because if the XCOM raids the wrong country, that Council member will be offended and permanently withdraw from the Council; if the wrongly accused country has already left the Council, then the raid causes continent-wide mass panic. If XCOM chooses the right country, a base assault mission becomes available to eliminate the threat once and for all.

A successful Covert Operations mission lowers the panic level in the country it takes place in. This can be a useful method of lowering panic if the player has not yet developed the resources to launch a large number of satellites.

Bugs Edit

  • It is possible to technically eliminate the last place to harbor the EXALT base with after mission intel rewards, although the "no-EXALT base" icon will not appear in the Covert Operations room next to the last country's name. This happens when you have enough intel to initiate a harbouring accusation with only one country not crossed out, but you still decide to go on covert missions instead of assaulting their base.