This article is about the supersoldiers. For other uses, see Spartan (disambiguation).
Spartans or SPARTAN Programs are members of a series of United Nations Space Command projects designed to create physically, genetically, technologically, and mentally superior supersoldiers as special fighting units. Although the word "SPARTAN" is written in all capital letters when used in reference to the programs in a formal context, it is not an acronym; the supersoldiers are known simply as "Spartans".
The first major effort to create augmented supersoldiers was the ORION Project, later retroactively dubbed "SPARTAN-I", which used operatives drafted from the UNSC. The subsequent programs, SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III, were highly successful, but also controversial because of their dubious ethics concerning the use children as candidates, particularly in the Spartan-II program where risk of injury or death in the augmentation procedures was relatively high. The latest installment, SPARTAN-IV, returned to the idea's roots by using consenting adult volunteers primarily drawn from the various special forces units of the UNSC. While formerly serving within the various conventional military branches of the UNSC (mainly the Navy), the Spartans were brought under a single organization with the formation of the military branch known as Spartan Operations to accommodate the growing number of Spartans in the fourth-generation program following the end of the Human-Covenant War.
The Spartan supersoldiers have traditionally been supplied with state-of-the-art equipment and technology, the most iconic being the MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor first worn by the Spartan-IIs and later utilized to a great extent by the SPARTAN-IV supersoldiers.
The basic concept for the SPARTAN programs has been around since the late 22nd century when the first bioengineering protocols were developed for the Interplanetary War. Since the establishment of these protocols humans have been using performance-enhancing equipment and augmentations to make them stronger and faster than previously possible. Spartans have been deployed numerous times throughout human conflict, leading up to and during the Human-Covenant War. The notion of creating supersoldiers first arose as a plan to enhance normal human soldiers into powerfully augmented special operations commandos. Initially the three separate programs were humanity's various attempts to create the perfect soldiers, in order to patrol the colonies, protect civilian and government populations, crush uprisings in their infancy and ensure others don't rise up as a result.
The Spartan soldiers of the UNSC are named after the Spartans of Ancient Greece, specifically during the time of the Persian invasion led by Xerxes I. The wars between invading Persians and defending Greeks would be known as the Greco-Persian Wars, and lasted from 499-448 BCE. During this war, the Battle of Thermopylae occurred, in which 300 Spartan soldiers leading 5000 other Greeks under the command of Leonidas I, held back a significantly larger force of Persian soldiers. All of the Spartans were eventually killed, but they successfully killed 20,000 Persians (according to Herodotus), and bought the Greeks time to prepare a better defense for Greece. The Spartans' formidable resilience resulted from their rigorous training in the agoge, which started when they reached the age of 7.
The genesis of the SPARTAN programs occurred in 2321 with the activation of the ORION Project. Launched by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the project was named after the Greek mythological hero Orion. The aim of ORION was to build on bioengineering protocols established in 2164 and create stronger and better soldiers than any before them.
The initial beginnings of ORION were merely a test to see what could be accomplished with the advancements of that time, and candidates of the ORION project were all volunteers from the armed forces of the military - these handful of candidates went through numerous testing and augmentations throughout the duration of the project. However, the results were far less than expected and eventually the candidates were seeded into the regular chain of command after the project was declared ineffective and terminated.
The relaunch of ORION
In 2491, the Colonial Military Administration relaunched ORION in secrecy, with the new goal of learning from the mistakes of the previous attempt, and creating a soldier unlike anything seen before - and to deploy these soldiers behind enemy lines and quell insurgencies in their infancy, or destroy established insurgencies by destroying their chain of command and expanding outward.
The project was headquartered in one of the many orbital docks on the fortress world Reach, and the candidates were, once again, selected volunteers from the UNSC Special Forces. This iteration of the project used more advanced indoctrination and biological augmentation techniques, and after a grueling series of physical and mental tests, the first batch of soldiers, 165 in total, successfully passed and moved on to the next phase. In 2496 the UNSC launched Operation: CHARLEMAGNE in response to colonial secessionists who executed a series of attacks on Eridanus II, which resulted in numerous deaths and the kidnappings of civilian and government officials in 2494. This marked the first operational deployment of the ORION soldiers, who scored a decisive victory and emerged from the battle with only a single casualty. The Spartans were able to complete the mission without even being seen, thereby fueling a range of conspiracy theories and media speculation; this proved to be very helpful to ONI's propaganda efforts in the coming decades. Though the Spartans were effective, their abilities fell short of the scientists' hopes, and they cost far too much to develop and field - in 2506 the project was deactivated and the soldiers were reassigned to various special operation units.
In the years following the deactivation of the ORION Project in 2506, the Insurrection became too large for the UNSC to manage with small Special Forces teams. As the Insurrectionist attacks were becoming more effective, and the military's responses heavier; the need for large scale military campaigns were becoming more and more necessary. The SPARTAN-II program was conceived by Dr. Catherine Halsey of ONI's Section 3, as the successor to the original ORION project and the best possible solution to end the conflict with the Insurrectionists.
Whereas the former Spartans were chemically-enhanced volunteers from the armed forces, the SPARTAN-IIs were young children, who were kidnapped, indoctrinated, and raised as soldiers from as young as six years old, being surgically, genetically, and cybernetically enhanced once they reached physical maturity. Although it was viewed as wildly unethical and filled with controversy, the secretive program produced results, and more importantly the Spartan-II soldiers proved to be the most effective soldiers ever fielded by a human armed force - and the most powerful weapon in the battle against the Insurrection. However, in 2525 the sudden breakout of the Human-Covenant War proved to be the most challenging and daunting war yet waged by humans, and the SPARTAN-IIs were outfitted with MJOLNIR, the most advanced mechanized armor in human history.
While the war with the Covenant continued to progress and the Insurrection was effectively cut off, the Spartan-IIs continued to engage Insurrectionist factions who remained strong enough to pose a genuine threat to the UNSC. The Spartan-IIs continued to perform their missions near-flawlessly, and ruthlessly killed off rebel leaders while engaging Covenant forces, doing whatever was necessary to protect the interests of the UNSC.
As the Human-Covenant War progressed and casualties mounted exponentially, ONI activated another program that was arguably even more morally questionable than the SPARTAN-II program. Spearheaded by a prominent opponent to Halsey's SPARTAN-II program, Colonel James Ackerson, the SPARTAN-III program was established using the previous program as a proof of concept.
Designed to produce supersoldiers more quickly, at a lower cost, and with a lower life expectancy, the SPARTAN-III program was intended for extreme high risk operations conducted at the highest level of secrecy. The SPARTAN-III candidates were once again children; however, rather than actually stealing children from their beds, this time the "candidates" were recruited from orphanages after the loss of their homes and families from the Covenant invasion, given the opportunity to strike back at the Covenant. The S-III candidates were taken to the planet Onyx and were under the leadership of Spartan-II Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose. Most of the Spartan-IIIs were equipped with Semi-Powered Infiltration armor, which is less advanced and cheaper to mass-produce than the MJOLNIR suits issued to the Spartan-IIs. Throughout the Human-Covenant War, three companies of Spartan-IIIs were trained and deployed, with exceedingly high casualty rates. The first company of S-IIIs, Alpha Company, was successful in destroying Covenant and rebel forces during the battles of Mamore, New Constantinople and in the Bonanza asteroid belt - their last mission Operation: PROMETHEUS in 2537 was deemed a success, even though all of the Spartans of Alpha Company were killed in action. The second company, Beta, was trained soon after the loss of Alpha. In 2545, the company participated in Operation: TORPEDO, which was also deemed a success; however, only two Spartans, Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091, survived out of the three hundred soldiers that took part in the operation. Tom and Lucy became trainers for the third company of S-IIIs, Gamma Company. Gamma Company completed their augmentation and most were deployed on missions elsewhere in late 2552, when the Shield World on Onyx was activated. A fourth class, Delta Company, was slated to begin training around late 2552, until the SPARTAN-III program was discontinued after the destruction of Onyx and the creation of the SPARTAN-IV program. After the war, the surviving Spartan-IIIs were offered the chance to integrate into the fledgling Spartan Operations.
Smaller, highly specialized units consisting of Spartan-IIIs also existed; these included the Headhunters and NOBLE Team. These units consisted of Spartans who were deemed particularly exceptional among their peers, removed from their mainline companies and given superior equipment and armor. Notably, the members of NOBLE Team received sets of MJOLNIR armor and had a Spartan-II as a permanent member.
Conceived by a SPARTAN-II "washout", Commander Musa-096, the SPARTAN-IV program was activated in early 2553. Like the original ORION Project, the SPARTAN-IV program uses only consenting adult volunteers, the augmentation of adults having been made possible by advancements in the technologies pioneered by the prior Spartan programs. Unlike the mainline SPARTAN-IIIs who were forced to use cheaper equipment due to budgetary constraints, all Spartan-IVs are equipped with MJOLNIR armor, now mass-produced by several private companies. The Spartan-IVs serve in a dedicated UNSC service branch known as Spartan Operations, whereas their forebears operated within other chains of command. Unlike the other military branches, the Spartans lack a formal rank hierarchy altogether, instead employing a more malleable framework based on an individual Spartan's skills and specialization.
ORION Project augmented personnel ("Spartan-Is")
Halo: Fleet Battles
UNSC Pelican Boarding Craft (Spartans)
List of appearances