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The Panther was a direct response to the Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks. First encountered on 23 June 1941, the T-34 outclassed the existing Panzer III and IV. At the insistence of General Heinz Guderian, a special Panzerkommision was dispatched to the Eastern Front to assess the T-34.
Among the features of the Soviet tank considered most significant were the sloping armor, which gave much improved shot deflection and also increased the effective armor thickness against penetration, the wide track, which improved mobility over soft ground, and the 76.2 mm gun, which had good armor penetration and fired an effective high explosive round. Daimler-Benz (DB) and Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg AG (MAN) were given the task of designing a new 30- to 35-ton tank, designated VK30.02, by April 1942 (apparently in time to be shown to Hitler for his birthday).