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We have fabricated and characterized ultrashort gate-length metamorphic high-electron mobility transistors (HEMTs) optimized for high gain performance for millimeter- and submillimeter-wave applications. In this paper, we have systematically evaluated the impact of gate length in the range of 25-50 nm on the device performance by exploring epitaxial layer designs, gate-to-channel distances, and recess widths. The study shows the 25-nm devices underperform their 50-nm counterparts in most of the key figures of merit including output conductance, voltage gain, off-state breakdown, on-state breakdown, and, most importantly, the maximum stable gain. This observation is actually in good agreement with the state-of-the-art results published so far, which indicate that the best overall performance of HEMTs for millimeter- and submillimeter-wave applications comes from devices with gate lengths ranging from 35 to 50 nm. The 25-nm devices, on the other hand, appear to have difficulty in achieving the proper vertical scaling for optimum gain, which is limited by the minimum gate layer thickness necessary to retain good Schottky characteristics. This limitation may eventually be overcome with the adoption of new materials used as the gate layer that can be integrated into the HEMT fabrication process.