I have a problem playing the campaign scenarios where the Battle of Midway is assumed not to have occurred. Specifically this refers to dealing with Kido Butai (meaning the carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu aka The Big Four). The Japanese like to group these carriers together (sometimes with Shokaku and Zuikaku, thus recreating the original Pearl Harbor strike force) and brutalize my forces with massive (250+) airstrikes. A tactic I once witnessed was Kido Butai sitting up close to Lae and letting Port Moresby have it with mondo strikes, sometimes reinforced with Betty/Nell raids from Rabaul. Unfortunately I was in the midst of sending a supply convoy, with carrier escort, to PM. This monster raid blew through my P40 and F4F CAP (carriers had ALL fighters set to LRCAP) and proceeded to brutalize my convoy (multiple AP/AK's sunk or seriously damaged). Later PM got hit directly with large airfield damage and many planes damaged or destroyed.
How do I counter these monster raids and tactics? I deliberately spurned the opening Coral Sea carrier battle and let my LBA and surface assets handle things against the Gili Gili landings. I thought that I would be better off sparing Lexington and Yorktown and giving them time to build up their aircrews, as well as waiting for the rest of my carriers (Saratoga, Enterprise, Hornet, Wasp) a few months down the road, so I could have huge carrier battlegroups of my own. Instead I seem to had given the Japanese the advantage, where they could resist any foray into their territory with near impunity. NOTHING is scarier than dealing with 100-odd Vals and Kates coming at your carriers or transports.
Should I have gone ahead and fought Shokaku, Zuikaku, and Shoho at the Coral Sea with my carriers? At least hope to do enough damage to keep them out of action for a few months? Unfortunately I never escape Coral Sea without enough damage to send both Lexington and Yorktown back to Pearl Harbor, if not for the outright loss of at least one. If I make any effort to challenge the Japanese carriers, I NEVER escape without significant damage in return, no matter what combination of escorts/CAP I use with my F4F's. So my carrier situation vs. the Japanese is no better a few months down the road. Maybe I should just hunker down, conserve my assets until they become more numerous, and wait for the AI to get stupid and split up Kido Butai where I can challenge them on more even odds (the AI does seem to get stupider as the game progresses).
Any advice would be appreciated.