Carriers do have to stay on station after launching a strike, in order to be able to recover that strike. I can't say that I've ever had my Carrier Task Groups unduly harassed by surface groups, (during daylight hours, anyway), since those groups without air cover are very vulnerable to air attack.
Thanks for the response. Most of the time when this happened to me, it seemed to be that the surface groups caught my carriers during the night after a strike ... however, when I had scouts aloft to see the surface TFs in question, I recall that they closed much of the range with my carriers while my airstrikes were aloft and the carriers were "anchored" in this way, which invariably led to them catching up with me for a night engagement.
I think that in the real world carrier TFs didn't stay in a single location while an airstrike was aloft, did they? Didn't they instead instruct the airstrike pilots as to the fleet's planned movements between launch and recovery?
If possible, rather than anchoring the fleet while airstrikes are aloft, I'd love to see the launching TF required to select a course and speed (to be held during the airstrike's flying time) at the same time that they create the other parameters of an airstrike (essentially simulating the "pilots briefing" mentioned above). The task force then automatically turns to and maintains that course and speed as soon as a strike is launched (i.e., the planned course and speed are "locked in" until the strike is recovered). This way, the maximum range of the strike and recovery location could be calculated with the movement of the fleet between launch and recovery figured into the strike parameters. This would at least make it possible for a carrier to launch a strike and then retire. The obvious tradeoff of this adding a bit to the distance the strike would need to fly ro reach a more distant recovery position, and hence lessening the total range available to the strike aircraft, would make for an interesting tactical decision. And consider the alternative of ordering the carriers to continue to close on the enemy position while an airstrike is aloft, hence running a greater risk in order to give the strike a little additional range boost and a bit earlier of a launch time!
If I'm mistaken and this would not be a better reflection of what carrier TFs actually did when launching airstrikes during the war, I hope someone will illuminate me, 'cause I'd love to understand the reality of these wartime decisions better. Otherwise, I'll keep my fingers crossed that SSG might find themselves in a position to give this concept some thought.