Arguably the finest bomber produced in Italy during World War II and fully a match for any medium bomber produced by
Germany or the Allies, the Leone (lion) appeared too late to influence Italy's fate in the war and was therefore built
only in very modest numbers. The design was the last by Filippo Zappata before he left CANT for Breda, and also his
first airplane of all-metal construction. The Z.1018 embodied the lessons of all of Zappata's previous warplanes for
CANT. The Z.1018 was a very clean design of the classic cantilever low-wing monoplane type with two wing-mounted
engines, tailwheel landing gear incorporating main units that retracted into the rear of the engine nacelles, and a
glazed nose incorporating the bombardier station. The first prototype was basically an aerodynamic test machine, and
differed from its successors in being of all-wood construction with a tail unit that comprised a dihedraled tailplane
carrying endplate vertical surfaces.
The prototype made its maiden flight in 1940 and was soon followed by five more prototypes of all-metal construction
with lengthened fuselage, the cockpit moved forward from the original position over the wing, and a revised tail unit
incorporating a single vertical surface. These prototypes were used for the evaluation of a number of power plants
including: two 1,500-hp Piaggio P.XII RC.35 radials, two 1,400-hp Piaggio P.XV RC.45 radials, two 1,400-hp Alfa Romeo
135 RC.32 Tornado radials and two 1,475-hp Fiat RA.1050 RC.58 Tifone inverted-Vee engines.
It was clear from the beginning of the flight test program that the performance of the Leone was so high that a
production order was certain. This materialized in 1941 in the form of a contract for 300 aircraft to be powered by
two Alfa Romeo 135 RC.32 or Piaggio P.XII RC.35 engines, depending on availability. In the event that the Alfa Romeo
radial engine was available in larger quantities, and production started in 1943 with a powerplant of two such engines.
By the time of the Italian armistace in 9/43 however, deliveries had reached only 10 pre-production and five production
warplanes, and a few of these machines saw limited service with the 101st Bombardment Group. Such was the potential of
the basic design that two important derivatives were proposed. The first of these was a heavy fighter was a fixed forward
armament of 7 20mm cannon as well as a defensive outfit based on three 12.7mm trainable machine guns. The second was
a night-fighter with German Lichtenstein SN-2 radar with the antenna in the nose. Both these fighter models had an
estimated maximum speed of 395 mph, but neither reached the hardware stage.
||1,350 HP per Engine
||8,800 Kg (11,500 Fully Loaded)
||Alfa Romeo 135 RC.32 Tornado radial engines
||Three 12.7mm machine guns, one fixed forward in starboard wing root, one in dorsal turret and one in ventral position, two 7.7mm machine guns in two beam positions
Article by JDG. Specifications by JDG and Alberto Rosselli.
Wings: Midway to Hiroshima cd-rom
Elke Weale, Combat Aircraft of World War Two, Bracken Books, 1985.
Enzo Angelucci, Rand McNally Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft 1914-1980, Military Press, 1983.