I am looking for a straight forward word or phrase to describe an occupation that is essentially underground/undercover work but I specifically want to stress that the work happens in the air/above the ground (sky, mountains, trees etc) not below the ground as underground implies. The specific meaning I am looking for is that it is hidden in terms of not physically visible or easy to get to, but also that there is a level of secrecy amongst the employees.

Looking at these two words in more detail and what I'd like captured from them:

  • Underground: in concealment or secrecy; not openly:
  • Undercover: working or done out of public sight; secret; engaged in spying or securing confidential information:

Examples of types of occupations that would fit the above:

  • Stealth aircraft pilot
  • Surveillance person mostly situated at a high vantage point
  • Watch tower guard working at a top secret facility

Example sentence (using 'airborne' as a placeholder):

  • When I was airborne I understood what I had to do, but now that I've gone underground, nothing makes sense.
  • When I was working airborne, I enjoyed the work. Now I'm working underground and don't know which way is up.
  • 1
    I doubt you can do both in one word. Under cover does not mean below ground, of course. The answers below are equivalent to under cover.
    – Xanne
    May 18, 2021 at 6:56
  • This is confusing (to me). Your header seeks an equivalent to 'underground' but not below ground (?). Then the example given is 'airborne'. Then secrecy 'among' employess may mean that they do not talk to one another. Secrecy 'of' employees would mean (to me) that the employees don't talk to outsiders. Unless the below answers are what you actually want (which also would confuse me) I suggest a clarifying edit.
    – Nigel J
    May 18, 2021 at 8:08
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    P.S. . . . . does 'clandestine' help ?
    – Nigel J
    May 18, 2021 at 8:10
  • 1
    I once had an acquaintance who worked for the FBI. His intent was to remain undercover and above ground. I don’t think the terms are mutually exclusive. They’re both somewhat figurative... May 19, 2021 at 2:56
  • 1
    You want a word that means secret, but also has connotations of in the sky? Maybe a phrase like "in the clouds"? The film Blade Runner uses "off-world" but that might be a little too far.
    – Stuart F
    May 21, 2021 at 22:58

2 Answers 2


Incognito. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incognito

This would apply to you as an individual. To hide an entire group would be something else.


Try occulted, from

occult v trans

  1. To conceal or cause to disappear from view.

TFD Online

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