I see a lot of doubts and concerns about the new USN light cruisers in current YouTube videos.
Challenges: USN light cruiser do not have the same mitigation as other light cruiser (smoke, repair, long range). They rely on island hugging.
Well, I really like this. But, I agree that you could use some balance.
What about a unique consumable that plays exactly with this type of gameplay?
Disembark Marines / Ground support
IF less than 1 km from an island (simply detect a possible collision, this already exists as a function)
USN cruisers can disembark ground forces (special consumable).
Lasts as long as close to the island and speed less than 12 knots, but if moves away, it takes a long time to recharge.
Grants: Spotting (like an airplane, but slightly less efficient. Advantage is that you know if something lurks close), further reduced detection range, repair consumable refreshes faster (this is your additional damage mitigation).
I am an Island
If completely static next to an island, the USN light cruiser can hide from radar. For as long as not spotted by any other mean. Then long refresh cycle.
Grants: Cannot be detected by radar
Within a few seconds, stop machines and gets silent.
Grants: Vastly reduces sonar detectability
These would completely work along the island hugging concept of the ships. It would also mean that USN light cruiser are very static and enemy should really get them to move in order to have them loose their Ground Support benefits. Silent operations and I am an island would allow them to further create surprises while aligned with their static approach.