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Special Operations Commanders are clad in pearly white armor, while Special Operations Officers are clad in blackish blue armor and "standard" Spec Ops Sangheili wear dark purple. Some bear a Forerunner symbol on their back, this however is only in Halo: CE. Additionally upon close inspection, you can find Forerunner symbols on their gauntlets in Halo 3.
In Halo: CE and Halo 2 they have the standard combat harnesses. In Halo 3, Special Operations Elites wear an indigo/violet Assault Harness and they can be seen in the level Floodgate. Through the Halo trilogy, they have worn dark colors, such as:
- Jet Black (Halo: CE)
- Navy Blue, Purple and Black (Halo 2)
- Violet (Halo 3)
In Halo: Combat Evolved, a Special Operations or Spec-Ops Elite's shields are twice as strong as those of a blue Minor Elite, and slightly stronger than those of a red Major Elite (200% for a Spec Ops Elite, compared to 150% for a red Major Elite). For example, it takes 10 headshots with the M6D pistol to kill a fully shielded Spec Ops Elite, while it only takes eight to kill a Major.
In Halo 2, their shields are the same strength as most other Elite types, including the red Major Elite, Elite Honor Guards, and Gold Zealots. On Legendary difficulty, their shields are extremely potent and strong, and the fastest way to kill one is to stick a Plasma Grenade.
In Halo 3, just as in Halo 2, their shields and health are identical to the red Major Elites.
In Halo: Reach Special Operation Elites are at their weakest yet. On Normal, just one melee strike is enough to completely deplete their shielding making them even weaker than blue Elite Minors, and about as resilient as Elite Rangers. This can be frustrating for those playing on Firefight's Versus mode as the Covenant.
Special Operations Elites, befitted with their perilous mission assignments, are given a diversity of Covenant weaponry, mainly the Plasma Rifle and the Energy Sword. They are also armed with Beam Rifles, Needlers, Carbines, and are the only Elite rank that use the Plasma Grenade. However they can be given any wieldable weapon when they are your allies during Halo 2 and Halo 3 campaigns.
Like the high-ranking Zealots and Ultras, the Special Operations Elites are extremely intelligent in combat situations, and have a knack for being extremely proficient with the Energy Sword. As clever warriors, Special Operations Elites consistently strafe, are constantly on the move, and never stand still to avoid being exposed or vulnerable to explosions. They also have superior accuracy, fire in longer bursts, and, as mentioned earlier, have stronger shielding than regular Elites, making them harder to kill, fitting with their high rank.
They are also not imperiously impulsive; they do not "berserk" when seriously injured, unlike many other Elites. Most notably, they operate in squads and are extremely skilled and accurate grenade throwers. They have a habit of throwing plasma grenades when you shoot them, and shoot at you when you throw grenades. A smart tactic is to shoot at the Elite, and when he rears back to throw a grenade try to stick him with a plasma grenade.
The black armored Elites are slightly more tactical-minded and are more difficult to kill. It is also noted that because of their stealthy nature, they work very well in a small group ranging from two-four. A team of three Spec-Ops Elites can accomplish a perilous and difficult mission with ease because of their collective tactics as a squad. They also use their Active camouflage quite effectively, killing many enemies from behind or surprising them from close range.
The Carbine and Fuel Rod Cannon are especially effective against them, and headshots are effective in killing them.