- "You have been called upon to serve, you will be trained... and you will become the best we can make of you. You will be the protectors of Earth and all her colonies."
- —Dr. Catherine Halsey to the SPARTAN-II recruits
The SPARTAN-II Program, originally known as the ORION Project, Generation II, was part of the SPARTAN Program, an effort to produce elite soldiers through mechanical and biological augmentation. The SPARTAN-II program would be the first in the series to meld advanced exoskeleton technology with the soldiers' superior physiques.
In the years following the deactivation of the ORION Project in 2506 the effectiveness of small special forces combating the insurrectionists became too large for the UNSC to manage. As insurrectionist forces become more effective and the military's responses consequently become more forceful, the need for large scale military campaigns became more and more obvious. In 2517 the Office of Naval Intelligence began to reexamine the Carver Findings, which had warned of instability in the Outer Colonies years earlier. The report rationalized that the instability would continue to escalate, and unless drastic military measures were taken, would result in a massive war between the inner colonies and the outer colonies. ONI's own projections at that time and up to 2525 concluded the same as Dr. Carver's findings. The SPARTAN-II project was conceived by Dr. Catherine Halsey of ONI Section III's Special Projects Division as the successor to the ORION Project and the best possible solution to end the widespread insurgency that raged throughout UNSC space. The project was created with several goals in mind. The first goal was to create a group of elite soldiers meant to subdue insurrections in their infancy, without substantial military casualties. The second goal was to minimize civilian casualties and avert civil war. The third goal was to substantially reduce the cost of conventional means of pacification.
Halsey's proposal for the project detailed radical changes in many different fields. The first and most controversial was the subjects themselves, who were selected by a gene-candidate pool, and must fit into a certain age restriction protocol. They must also have possessed superior physical and mental attributes. The trainees must be instilled with military value, and the understanding of war; something that cannot be taught to enlisted soldiers. This narrowed the candidates down to children who would be raised and taught in the art of warfare and military values, from a young age. Using such controversial means of creating a soldier meant that the project would have to be carried out in the highest form of secrecy.
Though conventional body armor had protected soldiers for centuries, the SPARTAN-II project's second radical change involved integrating the subject with a new powered exoskeleton device, designed to help keep its user safe and provide a powerful means of combating enemy forces. The drawback of this new armor is its requirement for augmenting the subject, effectively turning the SPARTANs into human guinea pigs.
Despite the tremendous risk and the unethical means of creating new soldiers, the SPARTAN-II project was greenlit by the top brass within the Office of Naval Intelligence, who concluded that the lives that could be saved far outweighed the risks involved. The project was initially granted funding for 300 candidates, though funding was later reduced to half this number. By 2517, 150 suitable candidates had been identified through DNA gathered from the UNSC's Outer Colony vaccination program, though funding had been further reduced to support only half that number. Seventy-five children, all six years old and of both sexes, were kidnapped. In order to preserve the program's secrecy, the children were replaced by flash clones, which would die soon thereafter due to numerous medical complications associated with flash-cloning an entire human being.
Dr. Halsey's use of cloning, following the dissemination of information on the SPARTAN-II project to the rest of ONI, came to be regarded one of the most controversial decisions involved with the program. In particular, the decision drew the anger of Margaret O. Parangosky, who interrogated Halsey after her capture and demanded to know her reasoning for the use of flash clones. According to Halsey herself, she was entirely unaware that the flash-cloning process would result in clones with reduced lifespans, and thus claimed to have no responsibility for the suffering endured by the families of the candidates. However, this explanation fails to clarify why Halsey did not simply use the flash clones in the program instead of the candidates themselves, given that she did not foresee any health complications. It appears far more likely that Halsey replaced the abductees with clones for personal, moral reasons, believing that she was giving the families closure and thus easing her own conscience.
Halsey was not satisfied with the original name of "ORION Project, Generation II"; thus, she renamed it out of personal preference, as well as to distance the project from the failures of ORION in the minds of the politico and military bureaucrats who controlled the project's budget. In order to pay homage to the sacrifice of the ORION project, she chose to call the project SPARTAN-II. She considered several other "bellicose" names, including Praetorians, Landsknecht, Immortals, Minutemen, Titans, Argonauts, Odysseus, Olympians, Zulu, Kronos, Promethean, Armor, Nemesis, Daedalus, Hercules, Viking, and Hyperion; the latter two were quickly excluded.
- Main article: SPARTAN-II training
The SPARTAN-II candidates after being sedated were taken to the colony world Reach, and began their training under Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez. To marginalize the civilian lives they had once led, their names became a combination of their given names and a number, with family names being discarded. The SPARTANs endured a great deal of hardship during their first years of training: they were placed into situations and drills that pushed their abilities to their very limit and beyond. Their hard training was complemented with high-level education, which included mathematics, science, history, reading, writing, and military tactics. Although his training methodology was tough, even brutal in some regards, Chief Petty Officer Mendez always instilled discipline, honor, and respect into the SPARTANs. He taught the SPARTANs how to kill, but at the same time he taught them the difference between right and wrong. Mendez trained the SPARTANs until 2525 when, at the age of fourteen, the they would go through the toughest part of their training: the biological augmentation procedures, which would kill 30 of the 75 conscripted children and cripple twelve others who would "wash out" of the SPARTAN-II program, going on to join the Office of Naval Intelligence; only 33 survived the procedures without physiological deformities. The bodies of those candidates who "washed out" were either placed in cryo-suspension, in the hope that they could some day be resuscitated; or used cognitive impressing to create Smart AIs, such as Durga. At least some of the candidates who were crippled were eventually rehabilitated.
 Human-Covenant War
The Human-Covenant War marked a change in objectives for the program; originally intended to quell rebellions, the SPARTANs were now forced into battle against a superior opponent to the insurrectionists: the Covenant. This new threat accelerated the SPARTANs' training to its final phase: Project MJOLNIR. With the MJOLNIR armor, the SPARTANs would be the first major UNSC response to the alien threat. The SPARTANs continuously proved highly effective against all threats; their heroic rearguard and delaying actions saved countless human lives from the genocidal Covenant onslaught. In 2547, The SPARTAN-II program was revealed to the public in an effort to boost morale among the UNSC. The SPARTANs' prowess was not lost on the Covenant, who came to fear, and in the case of the Sangheili, respect the SPARTANs as Demons.
Inevitably the small number of SPARTAN-IIs dwindled as casualties were sustained. As the exploits of the SPARTANs were a major propaganda boom to the UNSC, Section II of the Office of Naval Intelligence issued Directive 930, which stated that SPARTANs killed or wounded would be listed as "Missing in Action" (MIA) or "Wounded in Action" (WIA), thus maintaining the illusion of the SPARTANs' invincibility. By August 27, 2552, twenty-five of the twenty-eight remaining NAVSPECWEAP-oriented SPARTAN-IIs, except Gray Team, had been recalled to Reach, some from combat, to receive new orders for Operation: RED FLAG, a mission that HIGHCOM hoped would end the war. They would commandeer a Covenant vessel, locate the Covenant homeworld, and return with captured Covenant leadership to force a ceasefire. The artificial intelligence construct Cortana, carried within John-117's Mark V MJOLNIR armor, would serve as the strike force's hacker and technology specialist.
However, all preparations were interrupted and subsequently canceled by the Covenant's invasion of Reach. In the ensuing disaster, most of the SPARTAN-IIs were killed, although some took shelter in ONI's CASTLE Base. Two escaped aboard the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, one of whom was place in cryostasis aboard the ship after sustaining life-threatening injuries during the battle on Gamma Station. The Pillar of Autumn soon arrived at Halo Installation 04, which John-117 ultimately destroyed to prevent the spread of the Flood. Following the Battle of Installation 04, the survivors returned to Reach and were able to rendezvous with the remaining SPARTANs. The survivors then carried out a raid that resulted in the destruction of a Covenant fleet anchorage, stalling a Covenant plan to invade Earth. SPARTAN-IIs would go on to play pivotal roles in the Battle of Earth, the Battle of Installation 05, the Battle of Onyx, and the Battle of Installation 00.
In the post-war era only five SPARTAN-IIs are confirmed to have survived the war: John-117, Fred-104, Kelly-087, Linda-058 and Naomi-010. Others, such as the Gray and Black teams, as well as Douglas-042, Jerome-092 and Alice-130, were alive but out of contact with the UNSC as of their most recent sightings; the status of these Spartans following the war remains unknown. Following the war, the surviving SPARTAN-II's were integrated with the surviving SPARTAN-III's into the SPARTAN-IV Program. During the beginning of the human-Promethean war, John-117 played a pivotal role, stopping the Didact's attack on Earth.
- "Die? Didn't you know? Spartans never die."
- —Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose to Fleet Master Voro Nar 'Mantakree.
The identities of the Spartans' full names have been deleted from all military records. Only Dr. Halsey had secret files that contained the full names of all the Spartans on Reach; unfortunately, the records were destroyed after the the planet was glassed. The only other copy of these records are in the possession of Admiral Margaret Parangosky. Publicly, only their first names and service tags are known with their current status.
 Class I
The following is the list of all known SPARTAN-II subjects conscripted in 2517. Of the 150 children considered for the program, only seventy-five were conscripted. The only known candidate who was not conscripted was Candidate 095: Caleb F. Aagard.
 Successfully augmented
Thirteen SPARTAN-II candidates were discharged from the program after becoming debilitated during the augmentation procedures. They have been permanently reassigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence; however, Dr. Halsey hoped that some might be rehabilitated and enter service as fully functional Spartans. Similarly, Ralph-303 was discharged from the program due to psychological trauma, which he suffered upon witnessing his flash clone's death after escaping the Spartans' training facilities.
- Kirk-018 - Discharged. Possibly rehabilitated, for which Halsey had expressed hope.
- Serin-019 - Discharged after failed augmentation procedures and recruited as an ONI field agent, adopting the surname "Osman". Later became the protégé of Admiral Margaret Parangosky, and was handpicked by the latter to serve as a diplomatic envoy to Sanghelios. By 2558, Osman has become in the Commander-in-Chief of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
- Soren-066 - Discharged due to failures in augmentation process. Listed as missing in action on Reach after defecting to the Insurrectionists. Presumed killed before or during the Fall of Reach.
- SPARTAN-073 - Died due to failures in augmentation process.
- Cassandra-075 - Discharged due to failures in the augmentation procedures. Residing on the M25L Recovery Station as of October 2552.
- René-081 - Discharged. Possibly rehabilitated, for which Halsey had expressed hope.
- Fhajad-084 - Discharged and sent to work for ONI. Suffered uncontrollable muscle spasms due to failures in augmentation. Current status unknown; possibly rehabilitated, for which Halsey had expressed hope.
- Ralph-303 - Discharged due to experiencing irreparable psychological trauma after escaping the program. Later joined the UNSC Marine Corps. Killed in action during the Harvest Campaign; possibly listed as missing in action.
 Class II
After the graduation of the first class of SPARTAN-IIs in 2525, Dr. Halsey began planning for the next wave of Spartans; her efforts, however, ran into problems. There were too few candidates that were in sync with her age restriction protocol and a majority of her funding was going towards MJOLNIR maintenance and construction; leaving little room for continued training efforts. In 2531, the majority of her funds had been diverted to other projects (most notably the top secret, eyes only SPARTAN-III Program). Halsey eventually gave up on Class II and left the program, after she judged the candidates to be of an inferior standard.
Around six years later, however, enough candidates were within the right age to begin a second class. One of the most notable candidates, six-year-old Yasmine Zaman, was abducted and replaced by a flash clone. However, she died during the augmentation procedures. Among those who survived was Nicole-458. Another girl, Janissary James, was selected as a suitable candidate for training. However, her father, an ORION Project member now known as "James James", killed the would-be kidnapper.
 Project MJOLNIR
- Main article: MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor
The MJOLNIR Armor was created in parallel to the SPARTAN-II project and is the most technologically advanced piece of hardware in human hands. It can provide a SPARTAN-II with an incredible amount of protection and strength. The onboard computer system relays basic tactical information including IFF tags, a motion tracker, weaponry information, and health and energy shield level readouts. Later models of the MJOLNIR system are capable of carrying a starship-grade AI which can provide tactical data in the field.
 Specialized neural interface
- Main article: SPARTAN neural interface
This specialized version of the neural interface is implanted into the skull of a SPARTAN-II. The standard neural interface provides the neural link between the SPARTAN-II and the MJOLNIR armor. This device allows a starship-grade AI to be carried "between" the host's brain and later models of the MJOLNIR armor.
 Spartan augmentation procedures
- Main article: SPARTAN-II augmentation procedures
One of the essential and most dangerous aspects of the SPARTAN-II program was the biological augmentation procedures. The process consisted of many injections and surgeries. Only a small percentage of subjects survived the process and fully recovered.
- UNSC Marines often refer to Navy personnel as swabbies, including SPARTANs. However, this has only been observed with John-117.
- In Halo Wars, if a SPARTAN is killed in front of other units of the same team, one may say "They can die?!" showing that those units were told the Spartans were invincible. Additionally, some Spartans will say "Yippe-ki-yay" after killing an enemy, which is a reference to the Die Hard series (Bruce Willis' character, John McClane, says this after killing the antagonist in each film). Sometimes Spartans will shout, "For Samuel!" during combat in Halo Wars, as a reference to Samuel-034, the first Spartan to die in combat.
- The SPARTAN-II seal heavily resembles the modern Seal of the President of the United States. The Halo 3 achievements "UNSC Spartan" and "Spartan Officer" are represented by the SPARTAN-II seal.
- A cloth patch bearing the SPARTAN-II Program's insignia is included with the Limited and Legendary Editions of Halo: Reach.
John-117, the best-known member of the SPARTAN-II Program.
ONI agents abducting Daisy-023 into the SPARTAN-II Program.
A Spartan backflips off a Jiralhanae Chieftain in combat.
 List of appearances
- ^ Red-21 was placed in charge of Team Beta when the team splintered into four. As "actual" designates the commander, it is reasonable to assume that this Spartan is the same individual as "Beta-Red Actual".
- ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 121
- ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, page ???
- ^ a b c d e f Dr. Halsey's personal journal
- ^ Halo Encyclopedia page 81
- ^ Halo Encyclopedia page 34
- ^ Halo Encyclopedia page 44
- ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach page 58
- ^ a b Sybex Halo PC Strategy Guide Page 2
- ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach page 103
- ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx page 139
- ^ a b Halo: First Strike page 249
- ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Data Drop 5
- ^ Halo Wars timeline
- ^ Halo: First Strike (2010), Adjunct
- ^ Halo Waypoint - Defiant to the End
- ^ Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Library - Pelican
- ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach page 240
- ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 433
- ^ Halo Legends: Homecoming
- ^ Halo.Bungie.org: Re: Spoiler-free thoughts on the new episodes: "Ralph failed out of the program."
- ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, 2010 edition bonus content
- ^ Halo Waypoint — Sparkcast #5
- ^ Spartan Ops, S1E8 Expendable
- ^ Halo: Evolutions Pariah page 42
- ^ Halo: Evolutions Pariah page 55
- ^ Scanned
- ^ Conversations from the Universe page 10
- ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx page 45
- ^ Halo: Glasslands pages 72-73
- ^ Halo Waypoint forums — Canon question to 343i about Nicole
- ^ Axon Clips Chapter 12