What I am saying is that the odds in large-scale CV battles post 1943 are stacked heavily against the attacker. To plan on achieving a decisive victory in a large-scale CV battle in 1944, however big one makes a TF, is to play against the odds and the outs. It is not history alone upon which I base this opinion. The experiences of many players in their AARs confirms this. Generally, the strike craft suffer significant loss without achieving much. There are exceptions of course, but this is the norm.
In my opinion, putting every CV available in one big TF and hoping for the best, is not the best play. In my opinion, if you must fight a large CV battle, post 1943, is to try to plan the battle so as to be able to attack first with a large land-based strike from a large airbase with an HQ, then follow up the next day if possible, with your CV strike or strikes. For the allies, this means a more deliberate offensive: island hopping and building bases, rather than making sudden long leaps, if the KB has suffered few losses. For the Japanese this means focusing your defense around a major airfield.
With AA code changes shipboard AA is much more a factor than earlier in the game's history, yes. Loka has told me he's on his fourth Akagi DB corps (I think fourth.) He has sunk many more of my carriers than I have his, mostly due to me not fully understanding the CVL as well as what I said in this post--total number of aircraft rules. My VP side-dish has been his aircraft attrition in exchange for my decks. Not an even trade.
In my experience--being on the other side mostly--putting all the CVs in one big TF IS the best move, in the GAME. Dedicating fighters to either 100% CAP or 100% Escort is associated with this. And that's facing either CV-pure attacks, or combos with LBA. Don't split your fighters by range. Hold your CAP in tight.
Adding in LBA changes the geometry, no question. If you're a good Allied player there won't be a Day 2 CV-only strike though. You'll be gone. A Day-1 combo is a tough defense, but it's on the Allies if they Go There. War is hell.
And 1943 is a different fish than 1944-45. My hardest carrier "problem" was trying to retake Suva/Noumea before I had enough carriers and pure amphibs. A huge black hole to the north, with anything lurking. That said, my worst ass-whipping came when I went north from Java with insufficient decks to chase cripples and he had the WHOLE KB--ten CVs I think--in one TF out of my search range. I lost eight carriers of various sizes and shapes and didn't get one hit in on him. The worst day I've ever had playing AE or WITP in twelve years. If Loka had been a banzai-ing ass I would have conceded. But he isn't and I didn't.
Carriers. What ya gonna do?
Lol... What ya gonna do... . I agree 1942-43 is completely different than the the end-game. BTW, and I have tested this to some extent, the probability of good strike coordination from CVs operating in different TFs in the same hex and the probability of good strike coordination from one TF containing a large number of CVs is about the same. In fact, I do not have any hard evidence to prove the case, but I think it is better with multiple 15-ship TFs operating out of the same hex (providing they are all operating under the same naval HQ) than from one large TF. I will give you an example from the game that I am playing now. Here is a strike on a base... not a TF, but I have had similar results many times on TFs.
Afternoon Air attack on Bandjermasin Base Force, at 60,99 (Bandjermasin)
Weather in hex: Severe storms
Raid spotted at 20 NM, estimated altitude 14,000 feet.
Estimated time to target is 7 minutes
A5M4 Claude x 7
A6M2 Zero x 39
B4Y1 Jean x 5
B5N1 Kate x 31
B5N2 Kate x 51
D3A1 Val x 47
Japanese aircraft losses
B5N2 Kate: 1 damaged
Allied ground losses:
81 casualties reported
Squads: 0 destroyed, 0 disabled
Non Combat: 15 destroyed, 13 disabled
Engineers: 0 destroyed, 0 disabled
Guns lost 4 (1 destroyed, 3 disabled)
These aircraft came from 3 different CV groups all operating out of the same hex, and they coordinated their strike perfectly 3 days consecutively. The Jeans, 9 Vals, and the A5Ms came from the Hosho and the Taiyo, 2 CVEs in their own TF with a CS and 5 DDs. The B5N1 Kates came from the Ryujo and the Zuiho, also operating in their own TF with 3 CAs and 7 DDs. The B5N2s and the rest of the Vals came from the Zuikako and Shokaku, also operating in their own TF with 3 CAs and 7 DDs.