First off, they are two different things. Steel is an alloyed metal, and titanium is pure metal.
Pure titanium is stronger than most steels, but I am sure there are specific alloys of steel out there that can be harder than titanium in some way.
The common Ti-6Al-4V alloy (per the AMS 4911 specification) has a tensile strength of about 130,000 to 140,000psi (around 900 megapascals if you prefer metric). Commercially pure titanium grades, meanwhile, are around 25,000psi (175 MPa). (Note: 1,000psi = 1ksi.)
Ordinary carbon steel, like 1010, has a tensile strength of about 50ksi (35MPa). Steels you’ll find in cars, fence posts, steel cans, and so on have somewhat lower strengths, like 35ksi. The exact power can easily be altered by heat treating, and mechanical working (stretching, rolling, forging, etc.); 35k to 50ksi is typical for most steels you’ll bump into in everyday life.
So, quick comparison: Ti-6Al-4V at 140ksi and standard carbon steels at 35,000ksi. Difference? 4:1. Titanium seems four times as strong as everyday steel.
Titanium vs. Steel - Characteristic
Titanium’s excellent characteristic is that it is much lighter than steel and has equal to greater tensile strength.
Characteristics of Titanium
- Lightweight: It has the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element.
- Titanium vs Aluminum vs Steel: It’s as strong as steel but 45% lighter and twice as strong as aluminum but only 60% heavier.
- Corrosion resistant: It is highly resistant to corrosion even in sea water, aqua regia and chlorine.
- Bio-compatible: It is non-toxic, non-allergenic and perfectly compatible with the human body.
- Durable: It is more durable than gold and has become a popular jewelry choice.
When you say “steels,” you need to realize that there are hundreds of Alloys of iron and carbon (which is what “steel” is) that combined with a variety of alloying elements to produce super strong, very heat resistant finished products. These can be stronger than titanium in many cases.
Application in Planes
Titanium, being its high heat resistance capability. It is one of the highest melting temperature materials known.
The SR- 71 Blackbird skin is made of titanium to handle the extreme heat produced by flying at elevated Mach speeds. The surface of a Blackbird can reach 3000 degrees Fahrenheit while in flight, and the only material that can do that is titanium.
Also, the A10 “Warthog” cockpit area has a titanium tub that the pilot sits in so that any ground fire aimed at that pilot will be resisted due to titanium’s great strength at ambient temperature.
Titanium is a remarkable material and, given the right application, can very well be stronger than most steels.