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"The tide of war has turned. What happens next could change history."

- Karl Fairburne, France 1944.

Second Lieutenant Karl Fairburne is an American elite sniper that served with the British Army as volunteer, before being recruited by the British Special Operations Executive and later by the US O.S.S.; serving in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany.

He is the main protagonist of the Sniper Elite series, as well as the main playable character in all games in the series.

Early Life and Military Career[]

Very little is known about Karl's life prior to his military service. He was the son of an British-American ambassador to Germany before the war broke out, and was raised in Berlin. He studied at the United States Military Academy at West Point, shortly after America's entrance into World War II in December of 1941, where he became a qualified Sniper.

Karl's skill as a sniper was unmatched and he became a great asset to the allies during the Second World War. He was often sent as a solo infiltration commando but could operate with friendly forces on the terrain; those missions often being of the most top secret espionage missions during the Second World War. During the Battle of Berlin, Karl was entrusted with the recruitment and elimination of Nazi scientists.

Karl has been charged with various objectives, including:

  • Assassination,
  • Reconnaissance
  • Intelligence gathering,
  • Sabotage,
  • Search and rescue.

North Africa[]

Karl hiding from German Afrikakorps troops, including a Panzer IV.

In December 1941 to March 1943, Karl Fairburne was a volunteer sniper in the British Army defending Tobruk during the Battle of Gazala. Tobruk was lost but the British Naval Intelligence had noticed Karl's skills and recruited him as an agent to infiltrate the Axis-held oasis of Gaberoun to investigate the whereabouts of a British informant, who had gone missing when following the trail of General Franz Vahlen. The trail of orders found in the bodies of German and Italian officers hinted to a mysterious Project Seuche (literally meaning plague in German).

Hitchhiking with the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), Fairburne opens a path for them amid Flak 88 batteries in Halfaya Pass (called "Hellfire Pass" by the troops) in their search for the informant. As it happened, he had been compromised and captured before he could find out what Project Seuche was.

The LRDG dropped Karl in front of Fort Rifugio, where the informant was being held. The fort was previously held by the British during Operation Compass, so the layout of its outer and inner defences were available for study; therefore the fort, unassailable to an army, could be penetrated by a single man. Penetrating the outer defence manned by Italian troops, including Elites, Karl infiltrates the fort. Taking the cell key from the German commanding officer, Karl rescued Brauer, the informant. After dispatching a group of Italian paratroopers that arrived inconveniently after freeing the prisoner, Karl provided overwatch to Brauer amid a storm against waves of German and Italian troops trying stop the breakout. Information collected by Brauer led to the Siwa Oasis in Western Egypt.

"As usual, the Allies nip at our heels from the deep desert, but there is a new rumour, one of an allied sniper. Men say he's like the desert sand - he gets everywhere. Wüstengeist, they call him, the Desert Ghost. Some fear him more than they fear General Vahlen, myself among them."

- A German account found in Siwa.

Sneaking into the town, Karl finds out that three officers - "The Three Musketeers" - plan to betray Vahlen to Hitler by giving him the general's personal diary. They decide one of them is going to Berlin to deliver the diary personally to the Führer. Fairburne, identifying the holder of the diary by his wounded hand, kills the officer tasked as the courier and steals the notebook, which details Vahlen's plans to conquer Europe when the Afrika Korps wins in North Africa, with his base of operations somewhere in the Kasserine Pass.

Karl in front of the The old ruins at the Kasserine Pass, where General Vahlen's office is quartered.

Vahlen is getting paranoic, dissention among the ranks of Project Seuche is getting more and more apparent; running out of time, Vahlen stations a Tiger division to protect his HQ at the Kasserine Pass. Fairburne and Brauer decide to infiltrate the base, with Brauer acting as Karl's spotter. Navigating through the German positions, amid two Nebelwerfer positions and a couple of tunnels, dodging enemy patrols of foot and mechanized troops, Karl reaches Vahlen's HQ inside the ruins of an ancient monument. There, on top of a table, he finds a written order by Vahlen stating that he is "at the facility" to oversee the final stages of the project. The order also mentions that one Oberst Johann is in charge in Vahlen's absence, carrying the combination to the safe in HQ "if its contents are required". Fairburne tracks Oberst Johann to a set of houses next to the ruins, in front of a maze of tunnels in the rocks in front of the HQ. The colonel is being protected by a group of elites, including a sniper on top of a roof. After dispatching this body guard and killing Oberst Johann, Karl returns to Brauer, waiting on top of the tower in the middle of the plaza. Suddenly, a Tiger tank appears, spots Brauer shouting to Karl from the tower and blows him up with the main gun. The tank then proceeds to duel with Fairburne around the plaza, with the sniper coming out on top.

Karl goes back to the HQ but finds out a new patrol of elites has arrived to guard the entrance. When re-infiltrating the ruins, Karl used the combination to open the safe and find a film. The meaning of Project Seuche is finally revealed: a giant tank called Ratte. General Vahlen intends to use this massive tank to drive to the Suez and then capture the oil of the Middle East, so the Axis can win the war; a time when Vahlen would toppled Hitler himseld and become the Reich's new Führer. After listening to the presentation, and preparing to leave the HQ, Karl is ambushed by a trio of enemy snipers in ghillie suits. After fighting them off, Karl buries his dead friend Brauer, with a rifle and Brauer's dogtags as an improvised cross. He then takes a round from Brauer's pistol and leaves.

The situation is now clear, Vahlen's mission in Africa is to develop a super-tank, but his time is running out - the Allies retook Tobruk, affecting Vahlen's supply lines. The general needs to act fast, last he loses favor with Hitler. This desperation, added with Allied intelligence, allowed British Naval Intelligence to discover the location of an airfield supplying the Ratte facility in Tunisia, French North Africa. Fairburne joins the LRDG in assaulting the German-controlled Pont du Fahs Airfield, near Tunis, in order to completely sever Vahlen's supply lines. The airfield is heavily guarded solely by elite Fallschirmjäger, plus snipers in ghillie suits up the ridges and a few armoured vehicles. Entering from the southwest ahead of the LRDG's attack, Karl made use of different noise sources from engines to planes in order to pick off enemies as he made his way to the underground. There, he found a map with the precise location of the Ratte facility, but also a group of British soldiers held as prisoners and marked for execution. Eliminating the communications officer on a tower at the end of the airstrip, in order to avoid reinforcements, was considered by Karl before the arrival of the LRDG. From a vantage point, the skilled sniper provided cover for the LRDG vehicle while it came back and forth blowing up the German planes parked in the airstrip. After the shock and awe, with the LRDG already disappearing back into the desert, German reinforcements started arriving, with at least one Panzer IV, plus another armoured vehicle and a sniper climbing the observation tower directly in front of Karl's sniper nest. After clearing the airstrip of enemy vehicles, the LRDG returned in force, occupying the airfield, collecting Karl and the freed prisoners, with some of the LRDG commandos dressed in German uniforms.

The map Karl obtained in the underground complex in Pont du Fahs pointed to the facility being nestled in the sides of the Mides canyon. Karl remarks that it's an odd place to build a tank, but reasons the sheer drops along the edge of the canyon will help with hiding bodies. His mission is to destroy the Ratte and its entire facility, so as to completely impede the Third Reich's attempting to salvage the project in any way. The experienced American sniper infiltrates the base and proceeds to dismantle the production lines along his way to the Ratte itself. The canyon provides some vantage points an experienced sniper such as Karl could use, and he did. Karl also plans to deal with Vahlen as a personal vendetta as much as a professional assignment.

He gets inside the complex and prepares satchel charges to collapse the base as well as to destroy the Ratte prototype. Karl is surprised by General Vahlen when leaving the control run in the top floor of the complex, heading for an elevator. Karl had just set charges in critical points of the area. Vahlen, who addressed Karl by his moniker of "Desert Ghost", then starts a monologue about his admiration and being the same as Fairbourne, "workers of war", a remark to which Karl takes offense to, sharply answering "We are not the same" as he points to Vahlen. The demolition charges start exploding and Karl makes a run for the elevator, jumping into it as the charges blow up behind him. The elevator takes Karl down to the hangar holding the Ratte.

Now underground and with the elevator destroyed, Karl needs to discover a way to destroy the massive tank. Killing guards formed by Elites and Organisation Todt workers, the agile sniper places charges on four concrete columns around the Ratte, plus a charge on the vehicle's turret. His plan is to blown the facility on top of it, but before he can do that, a group of soldiers with a half-track arrive from the hangar and start patrolling the place. Karl still manages to despatch this last minute surprise, dodge a weapons check by the Ratte, break out of the facility, killing the elites guarding the exit and finding a sniper's nest with a view to the Ratte. In order to trigger the detonation, Fairburne shoots a crane that drops a load of the supertank's massive shells on top of it.

Vahlen is mortally injured trying to escape the hangar and Fairburne finds him on the floor, begigng for his life. Karl simply walks over Vahlen, ignoring his pleas, takes the general's Luger sidearm and removes the ammo. Reaching for Brauer's pistol round he saved, Karl tells Vahlen that the difference between them is that he remember's who he killed. Fairburne them uncerimonously points the Luger and shoots Vahlen right in the forehead. Karl then turns around, throws away the pistol e leaves.

It is revealed that the intelligence Fairburne acquired on the Ratte enables the USAAF and the RAF to launch the Battle of the Ruhr. The effect of Operation Chastise on steel production forces the Germans to scrap work on the Ratte.


Karl was sent to Italy in 1943, in order to help free the country from fascism and destroy a weapon that could prevent the rest of Europe fighting back against the Axis Powers. This weapon, as it turns out, is the Ms 300 "Razor", a further development of the already lethal Henschel Hs 293, a radio-guided anti-ship missile capable of sinking transports and warships with a single, well-placed hit. With the imminent Allied invasion of Italy, this new weapon could prove to be a threat against the Allied invasion fleet should it be deployed in sufficient numbers.

His first mission was scouting the island of San Celini, which had a huge Luftwaffe presence in the region, and where several high-ranking German officers, including a German Luftwaffe General named Tobias Schmidt, were demonstrating the weapon. In addition, these same officers were also filming the demonstration in question, to be presented to Adolf Hitler. In the end, Fairburne killed all high-ranking officers present, including General Schmidt, as well as potentially destroying the cameras used in filming the demonstration.

His second mission, now with the help of OSS agent Jack Weaver and members of the Allagran Partisans, was looking for Sofia Di Rocco, aka "The Angel." After searching the Axis-occupied town of Bitanti, he found her and a handful of other partisans holding out in the castle.

His third mission, as a "test" by Sofia to see if the Allies are finally going to support the partisans' cause, has Karl destroy a German railway cannon that's being used to flush out the Partisans, with it already having killed dozens of civilians as well. In addition, SOE headquarters, and Weaver, with the help of a German informant named Dorfmann, task Karl with potentially destroying a prototype P-51 reconnaissance variant, recovering the footage from the plane, and possibly blowing up an ammunition depot in the area.

With the railway gun dealt with and the footage recovered, Weaver now tasks Karl with destroying German anti-aircraft defenses guarding the Regilino dockyard, setting of the 4th mission. Karl himself is tasked with investigating a German weapons stash due to the increased enemy activity in the area, which he suspects to be related to the German missile project. Lucio, one of the resistance leaders under Sofia, asks Karl to kill Laterza, a corrupt harbor master and Fascist collaborator, while Sofia herself asks Karl to locate medicine used to treat Typhus. Along the way, Karl discovers that the Sicilian Mafia has also been making attempts to stop the Italian Fascists and the Nazis from shipping weapons. In addition, it turns out that the weapons shipments were indeed related to the missile project, with the destination for the weapons being Allagra.

Keen on exploiting the Mafia's hatred for the Fascists and their Nazi allies, Weaver and Karl meetup with Italian mob boss Salvatore Dinelli. The affable Don agrees to help the Allied and partisan cause, in exchange for the OSS and SOE assassinating Piero Capo, a fanatical Italian fascist and leader of the local Black Brigade. Capo has been looting art from the nearby monastery, the setting of the 5th mission. In addition, a mafia informant tells Karl about the Germans holding a nearby hilltop castle that could hold back the Allies and cause significant casualties if they were to advance through the area


Lt. Karl Fairburne traveled to France in 1944 to destroy Project Kraken

France, 1944 – As part of a covert US Rangers operation to weaken the Atlantikwall fortifications along the coast of Brittany, elite marksman Karl Fairburne makes contact with the French Resistance. Soon they uncover a secret Nazi project that threatens to end the war before the Allies can even invade Europe: Operation Kraken.


Karl SE2 Mittlewerk Factory.jpg

Fairburne is shipped off to Berlin in 1945, during the final days of World War II, as part of Operation Paperclip and its predecessor Operation Overcast, the plan by the USA to recruit the scientists of the V-2 Rocket program and to assassinate those trying to defect to the Soviet Union.

Fairburne was sent into Berlin to first assassinate German Major-General Hans von Eisenberg who was attempting to defect to the Soviets. Karl kills von Eisenberg at the Brandenburg Gate, when he meets with a Soviet contact to negotiate for the safe passage of his team. Karl escapes from the German forces to in order to continue with his hit list.

Karl decides to eliminate Doctor Gunther Kreidl next, knowing that he has the location of the V-2 production facility. Kriedl is being escorted out of the city in a convoy, with a guard detail. Karl learns the convoy route, and lays an ambush. Karl kills Kriedl and retrieves the location of the V-2 Production facility, and that the other targets will be there at a certain time. Karl decides to infiltrate the facility to eliminate the rest of the team and destroys the facility in one big explosion. Karl arrives and plants charges, but he finds the scientists absent, and intercepts a radio transmission that one of the members of the team, Doctor Efram Schwaiger, had been caught making plans to defect to the West. Karl is spotted and engages the enemy before the charges explode, and uses the confusion to escape.

As the Soviets begin their attack on Berlin, Karl decides to halt their progress by destroying a bridge, and also cause the Soviets and Germans to engage each other so he can slip through before making his way to save Schwaiger from being executed by Nazi officers for his betrayal. However in the ensuing firefight, Schwaiger is mortally wounded and in his dying words states that "Wolff has a plan" and that someone or something called "Tabun" is involved. Following these events, Fairburne continues to track and eliminate the remaining scientists, assassinating Doctor Oberst Müller in his command tower during a series of bombing raids on the city.

With no location of the V-2 launching site, Fairburne infiltrates and searches the Soviet HQ. There, he finds documents revealing that "Tabun" is actually a nerve gas that is to be carried by the V-2 rockets. As a last act of revenge, the remaining scientist Doctor Wolff intends to launch them at London.

With only the information that the location is somewhere outside Berlin, Fairburne goes to Wolff's offices within the city to find more information. However by the time he arrives the office has been already destroyed, yet Fairburne is able to find a ripped notebook and learns that Wolff is about to escape from an airfield. Fairburne retrieves a map detailing V-2 storage facilities and sets out to destroy the rockets before they can be launched.

With only Wolff left, Fairburne goes back to Brandenburg Gate, where he had assassinated von Eisenberg a few days earlier. Fairburne climbs on top of the structure and, as Wolff is about to escape in a car, shoots and kills Wolff, causing the car to lose control and flip over. Fairburne remarks that World War II is over but the Cold War has just begun, in which he has acted as the first soldier.

Zombie Army Trilogy[]

Karl is the default playable character in Zombie Army Trilogy. He is a member of the Survivor Brigade, who are attempting to end the Apocalypse and Hitler's Nazi Zombie Army.

Karl is generally not used to working in a team, though given the circumstances he was willing to his new role in the team, quite possibly reluctantly.

His signature weapons are the Springfield M1903 and Kar98k.

Appearance and Attire[]

Karl is a Caucasian male with gray eyes and dark brown hair, which he keeps brushed back.

During his time in North Africa, he wore a yellow short sleeved shirt, and brown cargo pants, and brown combat boots. He also had a pair of goggles, presumably in case of a sand storm. Karl's hair is slightly shorter and he sports a small beard, and he has a tan.

During the Italian campaign, Karl wore a mix of olive drab, tan, green, and white coats, olive pants, and black boots. The last one was worn in snowy conditions, such as during the assault on Allagra Fortress and the discovery of the Deathstorm Project.

During the Battle of Berlin, Karl wore an olive drab coat and pants and black boots. He wore the same clothes during the events of the Zombie Army Trilogy, though he had forearm guards and shoulder pads, and wore a yellow armband around his left bicep, like all other playable characters. He had a bloody bandage wrapped around his head. and wore black fingerless gloves. There was a large black container attatched to his belt, as well as having additional ammo pouches.

Several features always remain consistent with Karl's uniform. He always wears bandages wrapped around his hands in lieu of gloves, presumably, to grant more grip, yet maintain full dexterity. Karl always wears a scarf. He also wears spats, with a bandage around the one on his left leg. Karl wears a harness, to hold various pouches and a flask.

Karl Fairburne with the German uniform in the first game.

Sniper Elite[]

During the original Sniper Elite, Karl is disguised as a German sniper. This doesn't allow him to mingle with the Wehrmacht, though, being attacked on sight.


Karl bows his head in mourning of Brauer.

Sofia and Karl having a friendly banter after stopping an execution.

Karl is very stoic, even in the face of a full enemy assault, helping him excel at being a sniper. He is very quiet, most of his dialogue being delivered by inner monologue, and he barely speaks directly to other characters. In true warrior fashion, Karl has a sardonic humour, making one liners according to the situation or regarding some particular occurance.

Karl is very dedicated to his missions and will eliminate anyone who stands in his way in order to complete his objective. However, he doesn't follow orders blindly and will disregard then if the situation has evolved or for the greater good. When Karl discovers that Dr. Efram Schwaiger is trying to defect, he immediatly updates his orders to kill him and, instead, saves him from death by shooting his executioner.

Karl is a bit of a loner and does not seem very sociable, all very common characteristics among snipers.[1] While in Africa, he claimed that most of the soldiers were just young men blindly rushing to their deaths, and rather callously remarked that most wouldn't survive. Karl also took notice of how those young soldiers didn't like rough people like him around and how this didn't bother him. Though he wasn't without empathy, becoming close to Brauer and being saddened by his death; even making a proper burial with an improvised grave after he was killed by a Tiger tank at the Kasserine Pass. He was also distraught when Sofia was killed by General Böhm during the assault on the Allagra Fortress. Karl also saved from execution the defecting German scientist Dr Schwaiger during the Battle of Berlin, and showed empathy when he passed away after their stand against the Red Army.

Skills and Abilities[]

German soldier Headshot Afrika.jpg

Fairburne is an expert marksman and sharpshooter, making him an excellent sniper. Able to take out moving enemies, even if they are in a vehicle travelling at high speeds at great distances, and take on multiple enemy snipers single handed, ricochet bullets, and is accurate enough to detonate enemy grenades. Karl has great breath control, allowing him to steady his shots and to be more accurate. Karl will wait for extensive periods of time for an opportunity for a kill. He is also able to identify weak points on vehicles, so that he can disable, or destroy them.

An expert in guerrilla warfare, Fairburne will take full advantage of his environment, laying traps to provide an ambush against large enemy forces, and will even booby trap bodies to kill unsuspecting soldiers when they move to examine them.

He is a master of stealth and espionage. Usually deployed as a solo unit, Fairburne travels behind enemy lines into occupied territory, enemy strongholds, and even active battle zones on his own to complete objectives. Though, specializing as a sniper, he is excellent in close quarters combat, able to silently take out enemies with either a knife or his bare hands.

Karl close combat Italian Elite Folgore.jpg

Though he prefers a stealthy approach where possible, Fairburne is also capable in a firefight, able to use most weapons he finds in the field. He is able to hold his own against multiple enemy infantrymen, snipers, and even tanks. Fairburne has also been caught between rival factions fighting each other, and managed to survive the onslaught. Fairburne's exploits have earned him a reputation as an incredibly deadly operator, being dubbed by the enemy troops as "The Desert Ghost" (Wüstengeist) while he was in Africa. General Vahlen was even aware of his handiwork, claiming to be impressed, and called himself an 'admirer'. He stated that they were not so different, that they both are workers of war, and both "love" their work. Fairburne took offense and claimed he was not like Vahlen, stating later that he remembered everyone he killed - meaning he did it himself, not through others. When he arrived in Italy, his exploits in Africa have become the stuff of myths for the Nazis. A soldier said he heard Karl killed 2 soldiers with 1 bullet in Africa, to which his companion dismisses as mere propaganda by the Allies. He also got a new name during his missions in Italy where Nazis called him "The Shadow". In Berlin, the Germans and Soviets called him "The Sniper".



  • Karl is possibly named after William E. Fairbairn, A British soldier and police officer. He is notable for creating the self-defense style Defendu, and being one of the developers of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife.
  • One of the reasons he was chosen to be an OSS agent was from his high up family status in the American government; this was a common way of citizens being hired to join the OSS, coming from high up status.
  • It has been confirmed through dialogue and text in Sniper Elite 4 that Karl is of Jewish heritage.
  • He was chosen for his later mission in Berlin due to his knowledge of the city and the German language.
  • In Sniper Elite V2, Karl only ever speaks directly to Dr Schwaiger, and never interacts with any of his targets, with most of his dialogue being the mission briefings.
  • In Sniper Elite III, Karl speaks directly with two characters: Brauer and Field Marshal Franz Vahlen, the former being a VIP he was tasked with locating, and the latter his final target.
  • However in Sniper Elite 4 he now speaks to various characters before the beginning of most of the missions.
  • According to a collectable letter from the Coastal Facility in Sniper Elite 4, Karl may have British and German heritage. The letter states something along the lines of "Incomplete records suggest he was born to a British ambassador in Berlin."



  1. Pegler, Martin (2004). Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 22-23. ISBN - 1-84176-854-5. OCLC 56654780.