Nah, here's the trick:
First, you might have removed the check in Harpoon launcher, but depending on the level you're playing it might set formation air patrols anyway. I don't think the difficult level ignores the launcher settings, but I've found that unchecking that box doesn't usually make it so. Remove it anyway. Give your group a little time to launch the CAP flights.
Next, go to Settings->Game Preferences and make sure the Formation Air Patrols is unchecked for this session, so that as you eliminate CAP/AAW flights, they won't be replaced.
Then go to the game, select your carrier group and open the Formation Editor. One at a time, select the aircraft you wish to remove from CAP/AAW assignments. Often, flights such as F/A-18s are stacked on top of one another, so I cycle through the units using the space key so I don't miss anything. As you select a flight you wish to remove, left click twice on the little Air Ops button on the Formation Editor box. The selected flight will RTB and not be replaced. You may wish to leave the AWACS flight alone as it's under the battle group's Standard missile umbrella.
There's one other little pisser though...these flights will likely remain in a "plotted" assignment and therefore virtually unavailable to you once they've re-armed. To avoid this, after you've re-tasked these flights but before they land on the carrier, I suggest going back to the main map or to a zoom map you've made of your battle group, selecting each flight and pressing the "u" key to unassign them, then re-assign them back to land in that same map by clicking twice again on that air ops button. This should insure that they're not still plotted, although occasionally some slip through that crack. If you try to remove them from the "plotted" assignment using the mission editor, you get an error message telling you that you can't remove planes from a plotted mission. Even though you already have.
This process seems like a lot of work but you can do it quickly and easily. Oh, and an hour or so later in game time, go back to the Formation Editor and make sure it was successful and you didn't miss any planes.