This article is about the soldier on temporary assignment. For the mission type, see Covert Operations.
XCOM EW CovertOperative Surprise.png

A Covert Operative is a special duty soldier introduced in XCOM: Enemy Within.


Concept Art by Piero Macgowan

A Covert Operative is not a new class but a special temporary assignment in which a soldier is selected to complete a Covert Operation. The position of Covert Operative can be filled by any soldier, except a Heavy or MEC Trooper. The Covert Operative remains unavailable for other missions during the several days in which they complete their assignment and then signal for extraction. If the Covert Operative is not extracted they will be lost.

Extracting the Covert Operative triggers one of two new Covert Operation mission types; Covert Extraction and Covert Data Recovery. For either mission, the player will control both the Covert Operative and the regular squad which is sent as the extraction team but both parties start in different parts of the map.


Covert Operatives are deployed without body armor and can only be equipped with a pistol and any items available to them. They are granted a +20 Defense and +1 HP bonus to compensate for their lack of armor.[1]


Covert Operatives retain all their abilities (and Gene Mods) and will receive increased experience for the mission. Additionally, the Covert Operative gains the EXALT Comm Hack ability which allows the Operative to hack an EXALT Comm Array to disrupt EXALT communications which disables their agents from using their main weapons during the following turn in a manner similar to Disabling Shot; EXALT agents need to reload their main weapons before they can use them.

Ability Description
EXALT Comm Hack  EXALT Comm Hack   Covert operatives can disable EXALT communications arrays, sowing confusion and disorder among EXALT's forces.

Builds and Tactics[]

Due to a Covert Operative's limited equipment selection, it is extremely advantageous to research Tactical Rigging and all pistol upgrade Foundry projects as they become available.

Class Comparison[]

A Sniper has the potential to have the most Defense in most situations, and easily finishes off two weakened hostiles each round.

An Assault has the potential to damage the most hostiles during the round by having a third shot when hostiles come close, can shrug off one reaction shot each round, and can use Comm Hack after dashing.

A Support can add defense to himself and the squad, can finish off up to two weakened hostiles in sight during the enemy turn either when they are moving or if they open fire, and can have the most items with him to help the mission.

Sniper Class[]

Sniper operatives are stealthy and deadly, able to camp EXALT Comm Arrays and Covert Data Recovery with the following build:

The Sniper's skill set makes them the ideal candidate for Covert Operations, being able to remain cloaked in any cover and double-tapping pistol shots with enhanced damage. They can kill EXALT soldiers almost as efficiently as an Assault operative.

Unusable abilities of the Sniper:

  • Headshot - Requires a Sniper Rifle to do so.
  • Snap Shot - Unable to use primary weapon to benefit from this.
  • Squadsight - Pistols do not reach further than the normal line of sight firing range except on Overwatch.
  • Disabling Shot - Also requires a Sniper type weapon.
  • In The Zone - Likewise requires a Sniper Rifle.

Assault Class[]

Assault operatives are lethal and aggressive, able to outright kill most EXALT soldiers with the following build:

Most of their Assaults abilities compensates for the Operative's lack of a main weapon and/or armor, making them much more viable in the ensuing firefight.

  • A potential drawback to Assault Class operatives comes from their Close Combat Specialist ability. If an operative is hidden by Mimetic Skin and an Exalt soldier moves within range, the Assault operative will fire their pistol, automatically, breaking cloak.

Unusable abilities of the Assault:

  • Flush - Requires Rifle or Shotgun type weapon.
  • Extra Conditioning - Cannot wear armor, can only use HP bonus items which are not a factor with this.

Support Class[]

Support operatives are defensive and versatile, able to support the relief team with the following build:

The main benefit of having a Support Operative is if you send one of your Medics. This allows you to pack more firepower in your main squad since your Medic is already going to be on the mission. In addition, the Medic can do a better job of staying alive should he take some fire.

Unusable abilities of the Support:

Equipment and Upgrades[]


For maximum effectiveness, always equip a Covert Operative with the highest tech pistol available. Additional equipment options include:

Gene Mods[]

As most of the gene mods are beneficial. Here is a list of ones that are useless:

  • Neural Damping - EXALT did not manage to aquire Psionic Powers
  • Neural Feedback - Same as the above
  • Bioelectric Skin - EXALT don't seem to utilize Mimetic Skin, Ghost Armor, or Ghost Grenades, though this might reveal them in the fog of war if not in line of sight but in Bioelectric range. (Beware that if more than one operative uses Bioelectric Skin in a squad, then only those cloaked enemies will be revealed which come within the line of sight of BOTH soldiers!)

Gene Mods of course can be changed later, unlike all other abilities.

Psionic Abilities[]

Psionic abilities can be useful for an Operative. Mindfray, Psi Panic, and Mind Control can be used on EXALT, providing offensive alternatives to the pistol. Psi Inspiration and Telekinetic Field can also defensively benefit XCOM forces.


  • Having your Covert Operative kill three enemies in the same mission will unlock the "Remington... Max Remington" achievement. This is a reference to one of Sid Meier's earlier games, "Covert Action", a spy game where the main character is named Max Remington.
  • Due to bugs, Covert Operatives may die from "Unknown Trauma" even if their mission is successful. Apparently a Covert Operative who reaches the extraction point is simply invisible and out of the player's control, but still killable.
  • Due to a bug, when your Covert Operative recieves a new Psi rank after a Covert Operation, his usual summary window pops up where the intel is, there will be a Psi promotion field available for player clicking but it will open the normal class promotion window instead. Whatever happens because of this (as my operative was already Colonel class-ranked) when you exit the mission debriefing and enter the barracks, you'll be able to assign new Psi abilities as per usual.


  1. iHPBonus=1, iDefenseBonus=20, DefaultGameCore.ini game file, XCOM: Enemy Within (2013).