Background (Enemy Unknown)

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Manual Notes

It is 1999 and Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) have started appearing with disturbing regularity in the night skies. Reports of violent human abductions and horrific experimentation struck terror into the hearts of millions. The mass public hysteria has only served to expose Earth's impotence against a vastly superior technology.

Many countries initially attempted to deal independently with the aliens. In August 1998, Japan established an anti-alien combat force; the Kiryu-Kai. Equipped with Japanese-made fighter aircraft, the Kiryu-Kai certainly looked like a powerful force. However, after 5 months of expensive operations they had yet to intercept their first UFO. The lesson was clear: this was a worldwide problem which could not be dealt with by individual countries.

On December 11, 1998, representatives from the worlds most economically powerful countries gathered secretly in Geneva. After much debate, the decision was made to establish a covert independent body to combat, investigate and defeat the alien threat. This organization would be equipped with the world's finest pilots, soldiers, scientists and engineers, working together as one multi-national force. This organization was named the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit."

UFO: Defense Timeline (from X-COM Interceptor Manual)



Army Air Corps personnel from the 509th Bomb Group report the crash of a "flying disk" in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. Some reports claim that there were two objects, and that one actually housed three alien beings: two dead and one alive. Before the end of the day, Army Air Corps officials retract the story, claiming that the object that crashed was actually a weather balloon. The existence of alien beings is categorically denied.

All of the "weather balloon" debris and other physical evidence of the "Roswell Incident" are quickly whisked away to Wright Airfield in Ohio.


Reports of the UFO activity increase thoughout the world. At first, the sighting are relatively rare, and serious scientists write off the reports as hype surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Roswell incident.

However, as reports continue to increase, the legitimate press joins the tabloids in plashing "We Are Not Alone" headlines across the front page of major metropolitan newspapers all over the world.


Documented cases of human abductions by UFOs become commonplace in areas of sparse population in countries throughout the world. World governments step up their military readiness, and there is a general news blackout in most of the affected countries. Scientists try to make contact with the aliens, but there is no substantial response.

Many countries begin to contemplate a direct military strike against the aliens. Japan, taking the lead with it's stereotypical blind bravery and courage, forms the 'Kiryu-Kai' , an anti-alien combat force. After five months of operation, using the best equipment available, the group is unable to intercept even a single UFO. Due to lack of funding, Japan is forced to disband the Kiryu-Kai in November of 1998.

On December 11, 1998, the United Nations Security Council holds a clandestine summit in Geneva, Switzerland. After much debate, it is unanimously decided that a covert, multinational force should be formed to investigate, combat, and (hopefully) defeat the aliens. Assembling the best pilots, soldiers, engineers, and scientists from all the funding nations, the Geneva council establishes X-COM - the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit.

The First Alien War (AW-I)

1999 January 1st: The First Alien War Begins

X-COM's first secret base is established. Equipped with two state-of-the-art Interceptor fighter craft and a Skyranger troop carrier, the base begins scanning local airspace for UFO activity. The base's scanning equipment proves to be extremely effective at detecting alien craft, and the Interceptors, though out-classed by larger UFOs, produce immediate results-downing dozens of aliens ships in the first few months.

As X-COM soldiers explore crashed alien craft and collect examples of alien technology, the labs and workshops, staffed with the world's top labs and workshops, study the alien artefacts and develop methods to effectively re-create alien weapons and equipment.

UFO activity continues to increase worldwide. X-COM funding to fluctuate; the organization is funded voluntarily by the establishing countries of the world, but a loophole in the X-COM charter allows contributing nations to raise or lower their funding based on their perception of X-COM's success. Countries out of the original base's scanning range quickly become dissatisfied with X-COM's performance. Fearing the loss of funding, X-COM scrambles to increase the detection range of its original base, and start searching the world for other possible base sites.

The aliens become increasingly bold. They begin landing in large metropolitan areas and terrorizing the population. The number of abductions decreases as the aliens turn to wholesale slaughter of Earth's population.

As more alien incidents take place, it quickly becomes clear that the invasion force consists of not one, but numerous alien species.


X-COM expands, with more bases placed strategically around the globe. This pacifies most of the contributing nations, and the organization's funding stabilizes. Even so, X-COM base commanders come up with alternative funding scenarios in case the situation worsens in the future. Tentative deals are made to sell X-COM and alien equipment and weapons to certain underground organizations for a significant profit.

As captured alien equipment is researching, it is logged into an on-line data bank dubbed the "UFOpedia" by X-COM scientists and operatives. This knowledge is quickly put to practical use, as X-COM agents are equipped with more powerful weapons and devices bases on alien technology.


Starting early in the year, X-COM patrols begin to discover alien bases in hidden locations throughout the world. X-COM base commanders agree that the best defence is a strong offence. Every time a new aliens stronghold is discovered, a strike force is sent to clear and destroy the base. Despite numerous victories, new alien bases continue to appear.

X-COM research into the alien culture and technology proceeds as worldwide UFO and alien terrorist activity continue to increase.


X-COM commanders begin to realize that they are fighting a losing battle. While Earth is the nexus of alien activity, the aliens' infrastructure and leader ship is obviously not based here. It becomes clear that the key to defeating the aliens is discovering the base from which they are coordinating their invasion.

Despite continued success in some geographical areas, X-COM funding is severely reduced as beleaguered nations ratify pacts with the alien forces. Base commanders make the unpopular but financially sound decision to concentrate their interception and ground-attack efforts in only the richest, most powerful nations of the world. This strategy, coupled with increased sales of X-COM and alien technology to "unknown buyers", provides X-COM with enough money to continue for some time. It is recognized, however, that a final solution to the alien problem must be found soon.

After a spate of successfully interceptions and alien base invasions, X-COM personnel get the break they are waiting for. Interrogation of captured alien leaders shows that the alien's home base is on Mars, in a area known as Cydonia. Using all the captured technology available, X-COM engineers construct the Avenger - an interplanetary spacecraft capable of transporting troops and heavy equipment to the aliens' Mars base. Manufacturing efforts increase dramatically, as weapons and equipment are produced for use in final strike against the Martian base.

X-COM soldiers invade the alien base at Cydonia. After a fierce battle, the alien "Brain" creature that had apparently been guiding the entire invasion is located and killed. UFO activity declines to zero, and the remaining pockets of alien resistance prove to be disorganized and easy to defeat without the leadership of the " Brain". The war is over.

As the last of the aliens at Cydonia base are being hunted down by the X-COM strike team, an automated distress beacon is activated. A transmission of unknown content is broadcast to Earth.

The strike team manages to shut down the beacon within a matter of seconds. After extensive study, scientists conclude that the message was a call for reinforcements from the aliens bases on Earth. Since these bases have already been neutralized, the alien message is dismissed and quickly forgotten.

After a period of six months, information about the X-COM operation is released to the general public, the news comes a no suprise to most of the world, since the presence of X-COM craft and personnel in the world's major metropolitan areas had become commonplace over the previous year and a half.


And the timeline continues through the events of the Interlude leading up to Terror From The Deep.

See Also