The Jiralhanae Chieftain, also known as the Alpha Jiralhanae, is the third highest rank in the Jiralhanae social and military hierarchy.
Chieftains serve the main purpose of commanding their pack in military actions as well as serving multiple other roles as the leader of a group of a half-a-dozen or more Jiralhanae as well as several lower caste species within a "pack." Apart from pack leadership position, the Jiralhanae Chieftains are also spiritual leaders. Maccabeus, while Chieftain of the Rapid Conversion, would lead his pack in religious sermons, like the Progression of the Ages and blessing pack meals. Also, during The Ark and The Covenant, Chieftains can be seen at several points giving sermons to their packs in the Jiralhanae language.
The first and only Chieftain present in Halo 2 was Tartarus, who held the unique title of Chieftain of the Jiralhanae. Tartarus was killed by Thel 'Vadam, his Sangheili allies, and Sergeant Major Avery Johnson on Installation 05. He wielded a powerful ancient and unique Gravity Hammer, the Fist of Rukt. His uncle Maccabeus was the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae who preceded him and was the previous wielder of the Fist of Rukt. Maccabeus's death was at his young nephew's hands, as is the tradition within the Jiralhanae culture: a fight to the death over the Chieftain position within the pack. The same can be said for all Chieftains, unless the previous Chieftain fell in battle; however contestants may have had to fight to the death for the position if this was the case, so the situation would have stayed the same regardless.
In Halo 3, more Chieftains are shown, commanding their troops in a pack and enforcing that particular group mentality. Prior to the game's release, the video documentary "Et Tu Brute?" revealed their role in the game along with the overarching fact that the Brutes had replaced the Elites. They wear very elaborate gold or red Power Armor, breast-plates, and an even more intricate headdress. The Jiralhanae Chieftain headdress is shaped with a horse shoe-shaped projection form the back and two horns, one on each side of the horse-shoe shape. The Brute Chieftain seems to hold a rank similar to the Sangheili (Elite) Field Master.
In Halo: Reach, Jiralhanae Chieftains aren't as heavily armored. They also have weakened shields and less protective, and have less intimidating looking armor. They wear a flatter headdress compared to Chieftains on Halo 3, but a rarer Reach Variant has the flat headdress, but the gold shoulder plates and gauntlets of a Captain Major. They also wield a multitude of heavy weapons rather than just hammers, due to the fact they were only given the responsibility to Gravity Hammers in honor of Tartarus's death. In the level The Covenant, it takes two hits from another Gravity Hammer to kill them on any difficulty.
These Jiralhanae Chieftains are clad in ornate red and black armor, instantly recognizable by a large headdress. While it cannot take as much damage as the bronze, gold-colored armor worn by War Chieftains, it allows greater speed and mobility. Their Power Armor cannot be stuck by Plasma grenades, Spike grenades, or Needler projectiles. However, their armor can be stuck by Incendiary grenades and unarmored parts like the Chieftains' weapons, hands, and feet can be stuck by Spike and Plasma grenades.
Unlike the Power Armor worn by Jiralhanae of lesser rank, a Chieftain's armor does not fall apart once the shields are disabled. Additionally, their heavy helmets protect them from headshots, and it requires a handful of shots to the head from a precision weapon to knock off their helmet and leave them vulnerable to a fatal headshot.
A Brute Chieftain's shields are stronger than those of a standard Brute, but, oddly, are slightly weaker than a Brute Captain's. On any difficulty it only takes one Particle Beam Rifle or Sniper Rifle shot to disable their shields, while Brute Captains require two shots on Heroic or Legendary to bring their shields down. On Heroic, a Brute Chieftain's shield can be brought down with twelve MA5C Assault Rifle bullets or eight Plasma Rifle bolts. However, even unshielded, a Brute Chieftain has extremely high durability and can survive incredible high amounts of damage; on Heroic, it takes forty-three assault rifle bullets, five Particle Beam Rifle shots, or five direct hits from a Brute Shot to kill an unshielded Chieftain, whereas any other Brute rank dies after only one beam rifle shot or one to two Brute Shot grenades once their shields are disabled. This makes the durability of Chieftains much closer to that of the Brutes of Halo 2 than any other Jiralhanae unit in Halo 3. Additionally, their Power Armor grants Chieftains exceptionally high resistance to energy weaponry; even unshielded, a Brute Chieftain can withstand more than two hundred plasma rifle bolts before falling, while most standard Brutes die after only a little over a dozen plasma rifle bolts once their shields are gone.
In Halo: Reach, Brute Chieftains have returned. This time however, they have flatter, less intimidating, face-protecting helmets and are the only Brutes to possess energy shields, which are roughly equivalent to those of an Elite Major.
The Jiralhanae Chieftain's primary armament is the Gravity Hammer, although they are also known to use Fuel Rod Guns and Plasma Cannons. Brute Chieftains are the only enemy, aside from the occasional Flood, who use these weapons. On all level modes, they carry and almost always use the Invincibility power-up. It is also possible for them to carry a Regenerator, Flare, or Power Drain. On their left arm, the armor is thicker to deliver bone-crushing melee attacks should they need to perform one without their Gravity Hammer. Storyline wise, however, it actually prefers to use the bladed end of the gravity hammer to take out low ranked marines and non-combatant humans to save energy, but during gameplay, they always use theirs energized, bone shattering smashes when faced with a Spartan (or "The Demon" in John-117's case), when enraged, or sometimes against ODST. A chieftain can be seen doing this in Halo 3: ODST.
Jiralhanae Chieftains will be closely guarded by two or more Jiralhanae Bodyguards as well as high numbers of Brutes of other ranks, only leaving the security of the pack when they feel it is tactically sound or simply when they thirst for blood. Chieftains generally hang back and allow their entourage of Brutes to do the fighting, generally only charging forward to attack with their Gravity Hammers after several of their Brute pack subordinates have been slain.
If they run for you, turn and run as fast as you can. More often than not, unless you've managed to kill them within the first few seconds, they will activate their Invincibility if they are carrying one and you will not be able to kill them until it wears off. Chieftains can close distances quickly, and will not hesitate to smack anything out of their path. Though less durable than the more ornate War Chieftains, they are far faster and much deadlier in close combat, and they still boast extremely powerful shields and armor.
- Brute Chieftains, as fitting their "commander" role, have incredible physical strength and agility - far more so than their lesser brethren. Avoid going into melee combat with a Chieftain, and even when facing off against a War Chieftain, take care not to get hit. However, if you do get yourself in the situation, do not try to melee him or he will quickly deliver a direct blow with the Gravity Hammer, which is a one-hit-kill even on Normal difficulty. Run away as quickly as possible once you see him trying to get close enough to melee you. Shoot him enough times with one of your weapons, until his Power Armor breaks, then try to shoot his helmet/headdress off so that you can score a headshot.
- Another way, though difficult, is to circle around the back of the Chieftain, wait for him to do his backwards melee attack, and again circle round him while he is still turning round to where you used to be. This gives you ample time for an assassination. Believe it or not, this is the best way to kill them: their swing animations are incredibly predictable during Halo 3, and this extends to all hammer-wielding brutes. Note: assassinations ignore Invincibility, making this tactic even more useful.
- One of the best ways to kill a Chieftain is to charge at them from a distance. They will begin to leap at you; use the time when they are crouching down to leap to get up close to them. When they leap, if done correctly, they over the player's head, giving him or her enough time to perform an assassination.
- A hammer-wielding Chieftain will often utilize the Invincibility power-up while charging at you if you're firing and back-pedaling at the same time. However, if the player is able to kill the Chieftain before he activates it, the player can use the Invincibility to great gain.
- Even when Chieftains utilize the Invincibility power-up, an assassination will still kill them.
- A good way to kill a Chieftain is to use Cloaking and assassinate them. This way you are unharmed, and you can also pick up their Invincibility, since they did not have time to activate it. However, you should be careful not to alert any of the surrounding Brutes. If they know that you are there, even if they cannot see you, the Chieftain will sometimes be able to sense where you are even if you are cloaked and will turn around in your direction, although he does not attack. This will make it harder to get behind him and if you touch him, he will hit you and you will temporarily lose your cloaking, allowing the rest of the Brutes to see and attack you.
- Probably the easiest way to kill a Chieftain is to use a Spartan Laser on him. This will kill the Jiralhanae instantly, allowing you to pick up his Invincibility and, if you want, his Gravity Hammer. It is easier to do this as soon as you see them while they are taunting and growling at you, for on higher difficulties, they will activate their invincibility as the laser hits them, rendering the shot wasted. In Halo 3, this can only be done on the level the Covenant, as it is the only Halo 3 level where you are given a Spartan Laser.
- Although you cannot stick Chieftains, if you are a good shot you can stick the Chieftain's weapon, which usually is the Gravity Hammer. It's quite difficult, but it will kill him immediately. (This does not work on Legendary difficulty.)
- When facing a charging Chieftain, jump up as they try to hit you with their hammer and the blow from the hammer will push you away from the Brute, giving you more time to damage him and ultimately kill him as well as recharge your shields. Make sure you're not on an edge or the blast from the hammer could knock you over the edge, killing you.
- Incendiary grenades are a good way to kill a Chieftain, although on Legendary, this is not a guaranteed one hit kill, as he can easily activate his Invincibility and negate the effects of your grenade.
- If the Chieftain is alone, you may attempt to lure him into a close range fight and melee him before sidestepping. The Chieftains are surprisingly slow to recover after a melee/hammer attempt, so you can kill them with multiple melee hits by edging around him/jumping over him every time he attempts to melee/hammer you. This is quite risky, however, and is not recommended on higher difficulties.
- Another good way to kill a Chieftain is to dual-wield Spikers, as Chieftains seem to have a vulnerability to the spikes. Enough spikes will also slow down the Chieftain, occasionally stopping the Chieftain's charge and if you pump enough into him, he will eventually go down. Same with plasma rifles.
- When a Chieftain swings their gravity hammer at you, you can perform a 'gravity jump.' While not an actual move incorporated into the game, this involves jumping moments before the hammer hits, so that you ride the shock wave, usually to a place far away from the chieftain. Skilled players may utilize this to get out of an explosive's blast range, or to get head shots from above.
- In Halo: Reach, Chieftain armor can be stuck with plasma grenades. However, their reasonably strong shields and high unshielded durability mean that they can usually survive a stick attempt.
- The sniper rifle is devastating against Chieftains in Halo: Reach. Two head shots will kill any Chieftain on Easy, Normal and Heroic difficulties.
- Unlike Energy Sword-equipped Elites, who will generally make a beeline for their target without evading enemy fire, Hammer Chieftains will jink back and forth as they charge, making them much more difficult to head shot or stick then their Elite counterparts. This is compensated for because of their slower speed and the comparative ease of dodging the slower hammer strike compared to a sword swing.
- In Halo: Spartan Assault an unshielded Chieftain can sometimes withstand as many as three point-blank shotgun blasts, and it is still the most effective weapon to combat them. Grenades are incredibly effective at lowering their shields, but are less effective dealing unshielded damage.
- In the Halo 3 level Sierra 117, a Chieftain is seen hanging onto the side of a Phantom in the clearing with a crashed Pelican down the cliff. Oddly, this Chieftain can be stuck with Plasma grenades, but shows no reaction to it, and is immune to the blast. This is because this Chieftain is meant to be fought later at the dam where Johnson is rescued.
- Though if you do kill him there he will still show up when you rescue Johnson.
- In the Halo 3 level The Ark, a Chieftain is seen at the area where you officially meet the Brute Stalker. On lower difficulties, if you manage to throw enough grenades and shoot him at the same time, he will die although he is supposed to be fought later on in the chapter. If you kill him, when you go outside to your pickup zone, his pack will be waiting for you, although they won't be flying around unless you shoot one of them or get too close to them.
- During the early development of Halo 3, the Brute Chieftain was seen wielding an Energy Sword. This was probably taken out due to the fact that Brutes prefer the crude Gravity Hammers over Energy Swords, and because of the Energy Sword being an Elite-exclusive weapon.
- Chieftains are arguably stronger than Mgalekgolo due to their special armor, Gravity Hammers, and extreme durability. They do, however, have two weakness that the Hunters do not have: the Chieftains can be assassinated whereas the Hunters cannot be, and once their headpiece was removed they were susceptible to Headshots. The latter of these is emulated, however, by the Hunter's vulnerability to shots at its waist.
- Despite the seeming weakness of their Power Armor's shields, the armor at full charge is largely equivalent to a Brute Ultra, being able to withstand at least one melee attack, and is only divested of the shield after a barrage of small arms fire or a sniper or beam rifle shot.
- All Brute Chieftains are voiced by John DiMaggio in both Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST.
- If a Chieftain is transformed into a Flood Combat Form, their armor will become that of a Jiralhanae Minor. This is because the game engine does not have any code to transform the Chieftain into a Chieftain Combat Form. This can be easily observed in the Citadel of the Covenant, where the Flood temporarily ally with the Master Chief and attack the Covenant.
- In Halo 3: ODST one kills an unnamed police officer after Buck yells, "Scatter!"
- In Halo 3: The Official Strategy Guide, there is a mistake on the last page, where there is an ordinary Brute Chieftain wielding a Plasma Cannon and a Fuel Rod Gun. It also features a War Chieftain wielding a Gravity Hammer, which can only be fought in Firefight.
- In Halo 3: ODST, a Chieftain uses the blade on the back of his hammer to puncture Romeo's lung. This is the first time the blade of the Gravity Hammer is seen in use.
- In the Halo Legends's short The Babysitter, a blue armored Jiralhanae Chieftain is seen throughout the short wearing armor similar to that of the Jiralhanae Army Commander.
- The Halo: Reach Firefight limited picture in the Firefight match making lobby shows a Jiralhanae Chieftain with a Hero medal behind it.
- Although no Brute Chieftains can be fought besides Tartarus in Halo 2, it is possible on Halo 2 Vista to encounter a glitched Brute Honor Guard on High Charity that looks exactly like Tartarus, save with brown hair and no Fist of Rukt. It is possible that Brute Chieftains may have been meant to be used as enemies in Halo 2 but were canceled.
- In Halo: Reach, Jiralhanae Chieftains can use the same weapons as Sangheili Generals (excluding swords and including hammers).
- In Halo: Reach, Jiralhanae Chieftains are the only brutes with energy shielding. This is a possible attempt to make up for the lack of the reflective ability that their armor has in Halo 3.
- Before the Master Chief faces the last Brutes in the Halo 3 level "The Ark," a Chieftain will occasionally challenge him to a fight. He will sometimes taunt the Chief by saying, "Fight me, I'm right here!" When the Chieftain is killed, his followers will sometimes go berserk.
- If a Chieftain is infected by the Flood, the Gravity Hammer that he was wielding will disappear if not quickly grabbed by the player. This can easily be seen on the Halo 3 level, "The Covenant."
- The Chieftain's helmet in Halo: Reach covers their entire face save for their mouth and has glowing orange spots for eye holes. This only serves to increase the amount of fear felt for this powerful enemy.
- There appears to be two variants of the Chieftain in Halo: Reach. The regular Chieftain, and a rarely seen version that has the regular flat headdress but has Brute Captain shoulder pads and gauntlets.
- The Chieftains in Halo: Reach have long tied up beards, making them the only Brute rank in Halo: Reach to have hair at all.
- It is worth noting that, because the style of the beard is similar to that of the Jiralhanae Army Commander, it's possible that before the Great Schism only the highest ranking Brutes were able to have facial hair.
- In Halo 3, Brute chieftains seem to be much stronger than Chieftains in Halo: Reach.
- A Brute Chieftain is the only live Brute seen in Halo 4 before being killed by a presumed SPARTAN-II.