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CANT Z.1018 Leone Bomber

by JDG

The CANT Z.1018 Leone was a twin-engine, all-metal medium bomber and fast reconnaissance aircraft. Due to chronic engine troubles and low production rates, it saw very limited service in World War Two. The aircraft, originally conceptualized as the new “Standard Bomber”, failed to make an impact. Designed by Filippo Zappata before leaving CANT for Breda, it is also his first airplane of all-metal construction.

The CANT factory logo is displayed on the CANT Z.1018 prototype MM.507.

The CANT factory logo is displayed on the CANT Z.1018 prototype MM.507.

Design Concept

The Z.1018 embodied the lessons of all of Zappata’s previous warplanes for CANT. The Z.1018 encompassed a very clean design of the classic cantilever low-wing monoplane type with two wing-mounted engines. The 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. It differed from its successors in being of all-wood construction with a tail unit that comprised a dihedral tailplane carrying endplate vertical surfaces.

First Flight and Engine Troubles

The prototype made its maiden flight on 9 October 1939 using two 1,400-hp Alfa Romeo 135 RC.32 radials.  The Alfa Romeo engines suffered a variety of issues, including running hot and excessive vibrations. To alleviate these issues, a three propeller configuration replaced the four propellers, but the issue persisted. CANT decided to replace the Alfra Romeo engines with two 1,350-hp Piaggio P.XV RC.45 tornado double row radials.

Side view of the Leone.

Side view of the Leone.

A 25 May 1940 flight test with the new engines recorded a top speed of 512 KPH at 5,250 meters.  This followed with five more prototypes of all-metal construction with a lengthened fuselage. Additionally, 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 powerplants 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 radials with baffles, and two 1,475-hp Fiat RA.1050 RC.58 Tifone inverted-Vee engines.


The Leone I  possessed a bomb load capacity of 2,204 lbs (1,000 kg), three 12.7 mm and two 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns. Placement of the 12.7 mm machine guns included one fixed forward in the starboard wing root, one in the dorsal turret and one in the ventral position. The two 7.7 mm machine guns were located in two beam positions. The Leone II possessed a bomb load capacity of 3,306 lbs (1,500 kg), with three 12.7 mm and two 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns. A heavy fighter variant Leone III (BZ303) possessed eight 20 mm and one 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun.


Although only slightly superior to the CANT Z.1007, the Regia Aeronautica ordered 100 units on 31 October 1940. However, by the time of the Italian armistice in September 1943, deliveries reached only 10 wooden pre-production and seven production warplanes. Few of these machines saw limited service.

A look at the Z.1018 Leone cockpit.

A look at the Z.1018 Leone cockpit.

The dismal production rate can be traced to numerous modification requests, troublesome engines that were few in number, and an inadequate production capability.


Model CANT Z.1018 Leone I
Crew 2
Pilot, and Co-Pilot
Powerplant (2) Piaggio P.XII R.C.35
1,350 hp/ 1,010 kW
Maximum Speed 308 mph (497 km/h)
Max Ceiling 24,278 ft (7,400 m)
Range 830 miles (1,335 km)
Length 57 ft 6 in (17.6 m)
Height 20 ft (6.1 m)
Weight Empty: 16,225 lb (7,360 kg)
Max: 326,455 lb (12,000 kg)
Wing Area 679 Sq ft (63.1 m2)
Wingspan 72 ft 4 in (22.5 m)
Armament (3) 12.7 mm Breda SAFAT machine gun
(2) 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns
Bomb Load up to 2,204 lb (1,000 kg)

Additional Reference
Ali d’Italia, CRDA CANT Z.108, Giancarlo Garello

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