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Naval Special Weapons


Special operations




"Make the units better with new technology. Make more of them. And make them cheaper."
Colonel James Ackerson[1]

The SPARTAN-III program was a top-secret project initiated by the Beta-5 Division of the Office of Naval Intelligence's Section III in order to produce cheap and expendable supersoldiers to stem the tide of the Covenant's onslaught against the Outer Colonies.[1] In active service between 2536 and 2552, the SPARTAN-IIIs turned the tide of several critical battles of the Human-Covenant War. After the war, the remaining SPARTAN-III personnel were given the opportunity to join the newly formed Spartan branch, supplementing the numbers of the SPARTAN-IVs.[2]

The SPARTAN-III project was both a successor and supplement to the SPARTAN-II program. Created and engineered by Colonel James Ackerson of the Office of Naval Intelligence, the SPARTAN-IIIs were to be the next generation of supersoldiers. Composed primarily of vengeful orphans from fallen colonies,[3] they would be cheaper to arm, train, and produce; being chosen from a wider pool of candidates, they would also be more numerous than their SPARTAN-II predecessors. They would rely on teamwork and sheer numbers rather than advanced technology and equipment to achieve effectiveness.[1]


The SPARTAN-II program had been a dazzling success for the UNSC. Tales of Spartan supersoldiers fighting off thousands of Covenant attacks had become the stuff of legend. Unfortunately, there were too few SPARTAN-IIs to turn the tide of the war. Even worse, the director for the program, Doctor Catherine Halsey, had postponed the training of new SPARTAN-IIs for years due to the extremely specific genetic requirements for the children to be selected.[1]

The SPARTAN-II program also had several problems and deficiencies which overshadowed its success to the Office of Naval Intelligence. Firstly, the high mortality rate of the children during augmentation was counter-productive to the goal of the program. Next, funding the Spartans, including their training and MJOLNIR armor, cost as much as a battle group, at least according to Rear Admiral Ned Rich.[1] Third, there were far too few of them for them to turn the tide of the war. Finally, even though the SPARTAN-II program did not formally go public until 2547,[4] the Spartans and their exploits had already attained a near-legendary status within the UNSC. Even though the Spartans provided huge morale boost to the UNSC, it was a problem for most of the Office of Naval Intelligence. ONI operated in secrecy, and anything that shone light on their operations was seen as detrimental to their efforts.

The SPARTAN-IIIs were designed to be cheap and expendable. Trained in companies of around 300 at a time with a training regimen tougher than that of the SPARTAN-II program,[5] they were ultimately sent on high-risk missions that the UNSC could not accomplish even with the elite Orbital Drop Shock Troopers.[6] Though the casualty rates of the SPARTAN-IIIs stood at 100 percent on some missions, to ONI, all the operations were strategic successes. They were trading lives for time against the larger and technologically superior Covenant. ONI hoped that in time, enough Spartans would survive to train more and more future Spartans, swelling the ranks of available supersoldiers from only thirty SPARTAN-IIs in 2531 to a hundred thousand SPARTAN-IIIs within ten to twenty years.[1]

SPARTAN-III companies[edit]

Members of Alpha Company being inspected by one of their trainers

Alpha Company[edit]

Main article: SPARTAN-III Alpha Company

On December 27, 2531, the first group of SPARTAN-IIIs, known as Alpha Company, was sent to Onyx to be trained at Camp Currahee. They were led by Kurt Ambrose, a SPARTAN-II who had been abducted by ONI to administer the program. Of the 497 candidates who were conscripted, only 300 became Spartans.[3] This class of Spartans all survived the augmentations and was activated in November of 2536. Their record was at first exemplary, as they saw action at the Insurrection of Mamore, the Battle of New Constantinople, and at the Bonanza Asteroid Belt.[7] Nine months after they were activated, they were massacred in Operation: PROMETHEUS. All 300 Spartans deployed on the mission were killed.[8]

An unknown number of Alpha Company's members, deemed to match the criteria used in selecting the SPARTAN-II candidates (known as "CAT-IIs"), were hand-picked by Mendez and Kurt before Operation: PROMETHEUS and extracted from the company. These Spartans were assigned to other units—sometimes within other branches of the military—and given MJOLNIR armor. By 2552, four of these Spartans served with NOBLE Team: Carter-A259, Jun-A266, Emile-A239, and Thom-A293.[9]

Beta Company[edit]

Main article: SPARTAN-III Beta Company

Beta Company was approved right after Operation: PROMETHEUS in 2537. 418 candidates were conscripted in 2539, but only 300 became Spartans.[10] Disheartened at the loss of Alpha Company, Ambrose used a tougher training program and more thoroughly trained them in unit cohesiveness. Despite their superior training, they were similarly massacred in Operation: TORPEDO in 2545. From the entire company, only two participants survived the battle.[11]

As with Alpha Company, several members of Beta Company deemed too valuable to be wasted on suicide missions were pulled out of the unit before Operation: TORPEDO. Some of them were initially assigned to non-combat roles as cover, much to Colonel Ackerson's dismay, as he wanted to have all Spartans in the field. Like the personnel extracted from Alpha Company, they were issued with special equipment such as MJOLNIR. These included Kat-B320 and SPARTAN-B312, both of whom later served with NOBLE Team, as well as SPARTAN-B170.[9]

Gamma Company[edit]

Main article: SPARTAN-III Gamma Company

Gamma Company was trained with the help of the only two SPARTAN-IIIs from Beta Company who survived Operation: TORPEDO: Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091. Lieutenant Commander Ambrose regarded Gamma Company to be the finest of the SPARTAN-III companies. 330 candidates were selected, on average only six years old, and at Ambrose's request all 330 were approved. Every one of them survived the augmentation procedures.[12] Gamma Company received deployment orders only a few weeks after the Fall of Reach and most left Onyx before the Battle of Onyx.[13] Only fifteen SPARTAN-IIIs remained on Onyx as they competed for top honors. Following the battle, seven had been killed in action. Teams Gladius and Katana were not present in the early stages of the battle, leaving only Team Saber. Team Saber was the only SPARTAN-III team to fight alongside the SPARTAN-II unit Blue Team. With the help of their older, more experienced counterparts, they successfully fought off a Covenant attack along with destroying a Sentinel manufacturing facility. Ultimately, the surviving SPARTAN-IIIs escaped to the shield world at the core of Onyx.[14]

After the Human-Covenant War, the main body of Gamma Company was integrated into the SPARTAN-IV program attached to the newly formed Spartan branch,[2] though some members were returned to non-combatant status.[15] The SPARTAN-IIIs on Onyx (having joined Blue Team) were later recovered by the Office of Naval Intelligence and given the choice to join the SPARTAN-IVs.[16]

Delta Company[edit]

Main article: SPARTAN-III Delta Company

Delta Company was proposed and Camp Currahee was being prepared for their arrival when the Battle of Onyx began on October 31, 2552. With the death of Lieutenant Commander Ambrose and the disappearances of SCPO Franklin Mendez and Dr. Catherine Halsey, as well as the immediate concerns of the Battle of Earth and the SPARTAN-IV project, it is highly unlikely that Delta Company was ever trained.[17][18]

Non-company teams[edit]

In addition to the standard company formations, many SPARTAN-IIIs were withdrawn after training to serve in specialist units, at least from Alpha and Beta Companies. Most of these Spartans served under the operational command of the Navy and the Army,[19][20] though some served in the Marine Corps,[21] and a select few in the Air Force.[22]

Alpha and Beta Companies initially had 497 and 418 candidates, respectively, although only 300 would become Spartans within each company. Of the "washouts" from these companies, most would later become drill instructors for their successors. However, there may still have been a large recruitment pool from which to draw members for specialist teams. At least four Spartans—Emile-A239, Carter-A259, Jun-A266, and Thom-A293,[23] all of whom would later be assigned to NOBLE Team—were culled from Alpha Company, though the extent of these personnel withdrawals is unknown. Lieutenant Commander Ambrose believed that as much as 1.08% of Beta Company could be folded into base personnel prior to the attack on Pegasi Delta, which was expected to be a bloodbath: SPARTAN-B312 was pulled immediately after training and deployed as a "lone wolf" by an unknown superior; Kat-B320 was extracted (with difficulty) after Operation: CARTWHEEL and assigned to NOBLE Team. Ambrose also attempted to send Lucy-B091 and SPARTAN-B170 on deep, long-term reconnaissance to keep away from Operation: TORPEDO;[9] Lucy ultimately participated in the battle, though B170's fate is unknown. Thom-A293 and Rosenda-A344 also served in the non-company personnel rotation: Thom eventually served as Noble Six, while Rosenda was considered as a possible replacement in case a counter-insurgency arose due to Emile's excessive hostility toward Insurrectionists.[24]

Any remaining non-company units were presumably incorporated into the Spartan branch along with Gamma Company in early 2553.[2]


Jonah and Roland, a Headhunter team.
Main article: Headhunters

Only SPARTAN-IIIs who had survived two or more specially assigned training missions could join the "Headhunters". These two-man teams of SPARTAN-IIIs went on missions far behind enemy lines and were typically expected to die in combat. The Headhunters' existence was secret even to their peers. Once selected, candidates for the program were separated from their fellow Spartans and sent to specialist training camps on the far side of Onyx.[25] The Headhunters were comprehensively evaluated in order to ensure an effective bond between the members of each team. A contingent of six two-man teams, as well as five additional Headhunters, was maintained at all times to ensure the program's numbers remained constant should one or both members of a team be lost.[26] The Headhunters' SPI armor was more advanced than the suits issued to most SPARTAN-IIIs, as it included energy shielding, motion trackers, and VISR technology, and could also support a prototype active camouflage module.[27] It is unclear whether the Headhunters were maintained after the SPARTAN-IIIs' incorporation into the Spartan branch.

MJOLNIR-equipped teams[edit]

Out of those SPARTAN-IIIs withdrawn from their companies, many were equipped with MJOLNIR armor and deployed similarly to the SPARTAN-IIs rather than on suicide missions like their peers.[28][29][30] These MJOLNIR-clad SPARTAN-IIIs played a crucial role in many battles throughout the war in every branch of the military. Since the public was not aware of the distinction between the S-IIs and the S-IIIs, the latter let their predecessors take credit for their actions.[31]

Many MJOLNIR-clad SPARTAN-IIIs defended the planet Reach during the Covenant's invasion of the planet. Gauntlet, Red, and Echo Teams were rumored to be deployed in civilian evacuation operations on August 23.[32] Concurrently, multiple SPARTAN-III teams—and an unknown number of SPARTAN-IIs—were deployed to the capital city of Casbah on Tribute. One of these fireteams held off a bevy of Covenant vessels while a small number of civilians escaped aboard a transport craft. Though the entire team was killed, the SPARTAN-IVs on the UNSC Infinity would later pay homage to their courage with a simulation of the engagement.[33] By 20:00 hours on August 30, thirteen Spartans had perished near the Aszod ship breaking yards, the last evacuation point on the continent of Eposz; soon, SPARTAN-B312 of NOBLE Team would die in the same location in a valiant last stand.[34]

NOBLE Team[edit]

Main article: NOBLE Team

NOBLE Team was a special operations squad of the UNSC's Special Warfare Command. Unlike the Headhunter program, NOBLE Team was entirely separate from the SPARTAN-III program, being made up of SPARTAN-IIIs extracted from both Alpha and Beta Companies and serving under the Army's operational jurisdiction.[35]

Composed of five SPARTAN-IIIs and a SPARTAN-II, NOBLE Team was issued MJOLNIR armor, which is much more advanced than the cheaper Semi-Powered Infiltration armor issued to most SPARTAN-IIIs. Their most notable combat deployment was during the Fall of Reach. The team was commanded by Carter-A259, with Kat-B320 as his second-in-command. All but Jun-A266[36] were killed in combat during the Fall of Reach.[37] NOBLE Team's sacrifice was later commemorated with a statue at Hősök tere in the city of New Alexandria on Reach.[38]

Operational history[edit]

The operational history of the SPARTAN-III program has been marked by success and tragedy. Many of the operations undertaken by the soldiers were suicide missions, but were regarded as successes by the UNSC.[1]


  • October 24 — Colonel Ackerson' proposal for the SPARTAN-III program is approved.
  • December 27 — Alpha Company begins training.






  • Gamma Company is disbanded, with the bulk of the unit folded into the Spartan branch or shifted to non-combatant roles.[15] The joint S-II/S-III Blue Team are given the choice whether to join.[2]


Alpha Company[edit]

Beta Company[edit]

Gamma Company[edit]


  • Headhunters
    • Team 1
    • Team 2
      • Unidentified SPARTAN-III - KIA
      • Unidentified SPARTAN-III - KIA


SPI armor[edit]

A Spartan donning SPI armor.
Main article: Semi-Powered Infiltration armor

Semi-Powered Infiltration armor (SPI) was the primary armor system used by the SPARTAN-IIIs. Though more advanced than the ODST combat suit, it is considerably less advanced and less powerful than the MJOLNIR armor used by the SPARTAN-IIs.[44] Its main benefit was that it is drastically cheaper to produce than the MJOLNIR armor.[45]

Although the SPI bodysuit features a ballistic layer of liquid nanocrystals which provides significantly more protection than conventional body armor,[46] the armor is designed with an emphasis on stealth rather than raw power. It features photoreactive panels that mimic the surrounding textures, giving its wearer a rough approximation of active camouflage.[47] It lacks the energy shielding of the later models of MJOLNIR armor, and a single hit from an enemy plasma weapon melts the suit's photoreactive panels, rendering its camouflage capabilities useless.[48]

MJOLNIR armor[edit]

Main article: MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor

SPARTAN-IIIs extracted from their companies were issued with the MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor to improve their combat prowess. These included the SPARTAN-IIIs of NOBLE Team, who wore the first version of the Mark V in 2552. A variant of MJOLNIR was designed specifically for Spartans serving in the Army's SPECWAR/Group Three: Mark V[B].[49]

MJOLNIR GEN2 armor is standard-issue for all Spartans serving in the Spartan branch, including former SPARTAN-IIIs.

Augmentation procedures[edit]

Main article: Project CHRYSANTHEMUM

The SPARTAN-IIIs underwent enhancement procedures similar to those of the SPARTAN-IIs, but with higher success rates due to advancements in technology. The rate of survival went up from 44% for the SPARTAN-IIs to 100% for the SPARTAN-IIIs.[50]


  • Ash-G099 is once referred to as a private in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx.[51] This is most likely an oversight, as Kurt Ambrose, Franklin Mendez, Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091 were all part of the Navy, and the members of NOBLE Team maintained their Navy ranks despite being under the Army's operational control. Finally, in Halo: Glasslands, Mendez explicitly mentions that the SPARTAN-IIIs are Navy.[52]
  • Assuming the described fireteams (Wolf Pack, Foxtrot, Saber, Katana and Gladius) in the three SPARTAN-III companies represent the companies' standard fireteam size, the number of members per team increased by one every generation, with Alpha's Team Wolf Pack having three members, Beta's Team Foxtrot having four, and Gamma's three top-ranked fireteams having five.
  • The number of 300 SPARTAN-IIIs in both Alpha and Beta companies, who were both massacred but completed their missions and killed many Covenant warriors in the process is a reference to the fabled last stand of the 300 Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae.
  • The protagonist of Halo: Reach is SPARTAN-B312, a SPARTAN-III who was pulled from Beta Company right after training.[9]

List of appearances[edit]


  1. ^ In the prologue of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (page 16) Tom-B292 notes that he had been training since he was six years old. Since the prologue later states that he was twelve at the time, it can be extrapolated that Beta Company began training around 2539, despite the candidates having been identified as early as 2537. It should be noted that another reference in the novel (page 92) suggests that Tom is two years older than stated in the prologue, in which case Beta Company would have been initiated circa 2537. However, Tom states in Halo: Glasslands that he is twenty in early 2553 (page 401), which corroborates the Ghosts of Onyx prologue's version of him having been twelve at the time of Operation: TORPEDO, thus dating Beta Company's induction at 2539.
  2. ^ It has not been specified when Gamma Company was initiated. Alpha Company's training lasted for five years while Beta Company trained for roughly five or six years. Assuming Gamma Company's training time was consistent with the prior classes, they would have been inducted circa 2546-2547.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, pages 44-48
  2. ^ a b c d Halo: Glasslands, page 435
  3. ^ a b Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 70
  4. ^ The Spartan Project
  5. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 67
  6. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 15
  7. ^ a b Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 88
  8. ^ a b c Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, pages 81-83
  9. ^ a b c d e f Communique from Kurt to Mendez
  10. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 89
  11. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, Prologue
  12. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, pages 96-120
  13. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 139
  14. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, pages 369-383
  15. ^ a b Halo Waypoint: Catalog Interaction, Page 14
  16. ^ Halo: Glasslands, pages 382-389
  17. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 121
  18. ^ Halo Encyclopedia, page 85
  19. ^ Halo: Reach
  20. ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, pages 29, 62, 101-105, 130, 139, and 165
  21. ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 101
  22. ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 139
  23. ^ Halo Waypoint: Catalog Interaction (Page 51)
  24. ^ Emile-A239 personnel profile
  25. ^ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, "Headhunters", page 161
  26. ^ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, "Headhunters", page 160
  27. ^ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, "Headhunters", pages 163-165
  28. ^ See references under "Non-company teams".
  29. ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, pages 33, 66, 119
  30. ^ Halo 4: The Essential Visual Guide, page 146
  31. ^ Headhunters, page ???
  32. ^ Halo: Reach, campaign level New Alexandria
  33. ^ a b c Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 222
  34. ^ Halo: Reach, campaign level Lone Wolf
  36. ^ Halo: Initiation, Issue #1
  37. ^ Halo: Reach, campaign level Lone Wolf
  38. ^ Halo: Reach Legendary Edition Letter "Dear Cousin"
  39. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, pages 83-88
  40. ^ a b c Halo Waypoint: Catalog Interaction (Page 43)
  41. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 310
  42. ^ Letter from Eric Nylund
  43. ^ a b c Halo Waypoint: Catalog Interaction - Page 38
  44. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 207
  45. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 46
  46. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 171
  47. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 16
  48. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 113
  49. ^ Halo Encyclopedia, page 94 (2011 edition)
  50. ^ Halo: Ghost of Onyx, page 63
  51. ^ Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 254
  52. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 38