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, tail wheel 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 end plate 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 power plant of two such engines. By the time of the Italian armistice 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.
|Max Speed||323 MPH|
|Horsepower||1,350 HP per Engine|
|Bomb Load||3,307 Lbs|
|Weight||8,800 Kg (11,500 Fully Loaded)|
|Engine||Alfa Romeo 135 RC.32 Tornado radial engines|
|Armament||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 (Discovery Channel Multimedia: Wings)
Elke Weale, Combat Aircraft of World War Two, Bracken Books, 1985.
The Rand McNally Encyclopedia Of Military Aircraft, 1914-1980