Regarded by many as one of the greatest tanks ever built, the German Panther is probably the finest medium tank of the Second World War. Some 7,000 were made, combining firepower, armour protection and mobility that was unmatched by any other tank of the period. On the Eastern Front it was the primary nemesis of the Russian T-34 tank in the last two years of the war. Ironically, the Panther's genesis lay in the need for the Germans to come up with a new tank design after the T-34 had rendered the Panzer III obsolete almost overnight after Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The Panther made its combat debut in Russia at the Battle of Kursk in July 1943 and all major German tank development after this point was influenced by the design features of the T-34. Soviet tank crews were not alone in recognising the Panther as a deadly adversary. The Allied armies in Europe encountered it during the Normandy campaign in 1944 and considered the Panther to be the most formidable German armoured fighting vehicle in Europe through to 1945. Such was the effectiveness of the Panther that the French Army used it for a period after the Second World War as it rebuilt its own armoured force.