I think a few ideas could potentially be adapted from EVE Online game play specifically, from EVE's carriers and command ships, which have been very successful for carrier gameplay historically in that game.
1 - Keep the RTS game-style.
2 - Remove "Manual" drop/strafe from all nations/planes (hear me out).
3 - In the load-out screen, add multiple styles of each plane type for additional customization (fighters, dive bombers, torpedo bombers--models could even be brought in from World of Planes). These type differences would each possess a unique ability and must be selected at the loadout screen before a match, only able to possess one style of each plane type.
4 - To replace the manual and strafe mechanics give each plane type a unique ability or two with a long CD. If you click the target the plane will dogfight, the dive bombers/torpedo bombers will drop; however, if you use your unique ability for that plane they will do perform a unique action for that plane or type of plane.
Potential examples (only one of each plane style could be preselected for each match in the loadout screen):
- High Altitude Bombers: Have these bombers have a smaller field of vision and slightly lower health by default. Using the special ability allows bombers to "fly at high altitude" (make them invulnerable for X seconds). During high altitude, their range of vision would increase dramatically, while only able to loiter. This helps the destroyer scouting issue.
- Radar Bombers: Because removing manual drop eliminates the ability to drop on smoke, Radar Bombers would be able to identify where a ship in smoke is and focus it's drop pattern (like a Kaga drop pattern). This would not grant vision to the entire team.
- Formation Torpedo Bombers: Torpedo Bombers use a unique torpedo spread on a long cooldown in the fight.
- Long Drop Torpedo Bombers: Torpedo range is greatly extended for a short time. (This helps carrier's avoid AA but gives the enemy more time to maneuver).
- High Speed Fighters: Using unique ability greatly increases fighter speed for ~20 seconds and requires a very long cooldown, ~2-3 minutes.
- Barrage Fighters: This unique ability is functionally the same as strafe, imposing a long cooldown on that ability.
5 - Finally, you could give the CV "Command Ship Bonuses" to the friendly team within a specific range tactically (think of carrier bonuses during the Halloween event).
Examples (just a few):
- Minus 4% dispersion for X seconds.
- Increased concealment for X seconds
- Increased spotting for X seconds
- Fire prevention added to friendly's for X Seconds (looking at you English)
- Increased AA defense for X Seconds
Keeping long time CV's happy:
- Keep the RTS gameplay.
- More plane options and more loadout options I.E. More customization.
Lowering the skill threshold for new players:
- Remove all Manual drops and strafes.
- Add one or two "unique" abilities to planes.
- Better Team play.
In-game name: Rikan