The last design by Ing. Zappata before he left Cant for the Breda organization was the Z.1018 twin-engined medium bomber, probably the best bomber actually built in Italy during the war. Although the first six examples were built of wood, the production Z.1018 contrasted with all its Cant forebears by employing all-metal construction. A number of different prototypes were built, incorporating 1500 h.p. Piaggio P.XII R.C.35, 1400 h.p. Piaggio P.XV R.C.45, and 1400 h.p. Alia Romeo 135 R.C.32 radial engines, as well as one filled with 1475 h.p. FIAT R.A.I050 R.C.58 Tifone (Typhoon) liquid-cooled engines, which were license-built DB 605A-l units. The first prototype, employing four-bladed airscrews and twin fins and rudders, flew in 1940. Subsequent changes, in addition to the variety of engines tested, included three-bladed airscrews, a cockpit moved from behind the wing leading edge to a position ahead of the engines, and a single fin-and-rudder assembly.
So exceptional was the performance of the Z.1018 that 300 production machines were ordered in 1941, to be powered by 1320 h.p. Piaggio P.XII R.C.35 or 1350 h.p. Alfa Romeo 135 R.C.32 Tornado engines, both eighteen-cylinder radials. Given the name Leone (Lion), the Z.1018 carried a maximum bomb load of six 550-lb. bombs and defended itself with one 12.7-mm. machine gun in a dorsal Caproni Landani Delta F turret, one 12.7-mm. gun in a ventral position, and two 7.7-mm. guns firing from hatches in the sides of the fuselage. An offensive forward-firing 12.7-mm. weapon was mounted in the starboard wing near the root.
By early 1943 a few Z.1018 bombers reached the Regia Aeronautica, equipping the 101 0 Gruppo of the 470 Stormo Bombardimento Terrestre, which was already operating Z.1007 bis Alciones. However, the Leone saw little action, the Italian surrender coming only a short time later.
Maximum speed was 323 m.p.h., range 700-1367 miles, and service ceiling 23,785 ft. The Z.1018 climbed to 6560 ft. in 3 min. 10 sec. Span was 73 ft. 93/4 in., length 57 ft. 9 in., height 19 ft. 1P/2 in., and wing area 679.2 sq. ft.
Projected but never built were two additional variants, a heavy day fighter with seven 20-mm. 'MG 151 cannon in the nose and three 12.7-mm. defensive machine guns, and a night fighter with German Lichtenstein SN 2 radar mounted in the nose. Estimated maximum speed of both models was 385 m.p.h. The 1250 h.p. FIAT A.83 R.C.24 eighteen-cylinder radial engine was also considered for installation on the Z.1018.
The Cant Z.1018 was the first Italian bomber with performance and armament comparable to the best German and Allied types, and it was unfortunate for the Regia Aeronautica that the production models began to appear too late in the conflict to have any noticeable effect on the outcome.