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High-energy ion-irradiated 3.3-nm oxynitride film and 2.2-nm SiO2-film MOS capacitors show premature breakdown during subsequent electrical stress. This degradation in breakdown increases with increasing ion linear energy transfer (LET), increasing ion fluence, and decreasing oxide thickness. The reliability degradation due to high-energy ion-induced latent defects is explained by a simple percolation model of conduction through SiO2 layers with irradiation and/or electrical stress-induced defects. Monitoring the gate-leakage current reveals the presence of latent defects in the dielectric films. These results may be significant to future single-event effects and single-event gate rupture tests for MOS devices and ICs with ultrathin gate oxides.