When I was reading about the HAL Tejas I observed that it was described as a "tailless" plane. However I could see a tail in the picture.

After careful reading I am assuming that being tailless means not having any tail planes a.k.a horizontal stabilizers.

Does tailless means no tail at all?

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    $\begingroup$ It seems there are two questions: 1) Does tailless mean no tail; and 2) Are delta winged planes tailless. Please disambiguate. $\endgroup$
    – RoboKaren
    Dec 10 '15 at 16:46

No, not at all - there are at least two Delta Wing aircraft that feature a conventional tail, and they are the Gloster Javelin and the Mig 21

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloster_Javelin Gloster Javelin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikoyan-Gurevich_MiG-21 Mig-21 (Courtesy of http://airheadsfly.com/)

In addition (and I believe this is within the spirit of what you've asked) you then you have aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon or Saab 37 Viggen which feature canards:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurofighter_Typhoon Eurofighter Typhoon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_37_Viggen Saab 37 Viggen

Ultimately, "Delta" only describes the wing shape - though there of course features of the shape that will lead to many designs appearing similar. The Wikipedia article has a nice infographic showing the general variations of Delta Winged designs:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_wing Delta Wing Layouts

  • $\begingroup$ Since the MiG-21 is using a general TsAGI-developed configuration, there are several Russian aircraft from that era which use a tailed delta, such as the Su-15 or the M-50 $\endgroup$ Dec 11 '15 at 4:33
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you could add the definition of "tailless planes" to you answer, since that seems to be the core question? $\endgroup$
    – user12485
    Dec 11 '15 at 12:33

Tailless means no horizontal tail, but a vertical tail is still allowed. Examples are the Convair F-102 or Convair B-58.

Convair B-58 Hustler

Convair B-58 Hustler (picture source)

Compare this to a flying wing: Here even the vertical tail is left off. Since a classic delta would have too little lever arm for yaw control, this requires a higher aspect ratio wing. An example is the Horten IX:

Horten IX V1 prototype aircraft

Horten IX V1 prototype aircraft (picture source)

  • $\begingroup$ You might want to add the B-2 because it is the extreme example of no vertical and horizontal stabilizers. $\endgroup$ Dec 14 '15 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ @SMSvonderTann I'm not aeroalias. One picture per point should be enough, and the Horten is the better-looking of the two ;-). $\endgroup$ Dec 15 '15 at 10:04

Tailless usually means no horizontal stabilizer (tailplane). Until the postwar era it often also included planes with no tailplane but instead a "canard" foreplane in front of the wing, however we nowadays recognise the canard and tailless configurations as distinct, some even talk of the canard as "putting the tail in front of the wing". One or two experimental types without a vertical tail fin have also been referred to publicly as "tailless" but this is technically incorrect.


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