I served 12 years in an ANG A-10 unit. I went in as a skeptic, and came out a believer. I remember one very rainy day hauling munitions to the flightline. I thought I was wasting my time, that the ammo loaders would get some practice in the rain and missions would be called off. Not so. There was a ceiling (bottom of clouds) of maybe 200 feet. The A-10s took off, flew the mission, and came back like it was all routine. I'm not a pilot, but I can tell you that upon return it appeared as though they came down through the cloud (undoubtedly on instruments) and then flew a visual low-level break under the cloud bottoms right down the runway. One or two even did go-arounds without ever needing to climb up into the cloud, or for that matter without having to leave the airfield boundary. An interesting use of the power and maneuverability of this aircraft, to say the least.
Even before Desert Storm, the A-10 was in continual upgrade. Limited air-to-air capability with the addition of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, a collision avoidance system and gun accuracy enhancement, night-vision capability (my unit did many of those NVG upgrades) and other improvements have kept the Warthog at the top of list for effective close air support. Another mission for which the A-10 is imminently suited is that of FAC. Usually flown with a Warthog considered (but not officially designated) an OA-10A, the A-10 is an effective forward air control platform. Additionally, the Warthog was the perfect jet replacement for the preceding Douglas A-1 Skyraider in the armed search and rescue SANDY role. The A-10s endurance enables it to keep enemy heads down all day long if necessary, during rescue of downed pilots in hostile territory.
I photographed the A-10 that shot down the helicopter during Desert Storm. It seems unlikely, but I believe the weapon used was a laser-guided bomb.
My feeling was that Desert Storm more or less led to the rebirth of faith in the A-10 Warthog. Or, at least at top USAF levels it seems to have resulted in a late blooming positive attitude for a dedicated aircraft that is neither pretty nor fast-but damn effective.
The A-10 has not had a short career. It has been in service for more than a quarter of a century. Like others on this thread, I doubt it will be truly replaced. More than likely, the current all-purpose aircraft school of thought will result in someone making the claim that JSF (or some other electronic whizz-bang jet)can do the mission. Or at least that's what computer simulation will tell them, and hey, that's enough these days. Yeah, but not to the troop on the ground. He wants bombs on target-period.
Gotta stop here. I'm sounding like a salesman.