We have performed high resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM) image simulations to qualitatively assess the visibility of various structural defects in ultrathin gate oxides of MOSFET devices, and to quantitatively examine the accuracy of HRTEM in performing gate oxide metrology. Structural models contained crystalline defects embedded in an amorphous 16-Å-thick gate oxide. Simulated images were calculated for structures viewed in cross section. Defect visibility was assessed as a function of specimen thickness and defect morphology, composition, size, and orientation. Defect morphologies included asperities lying on the substrate surface, as well as “bridging” defects connecting the substrate to the gate electrode. Measurements of gate oxide thickness extracted from simulated images were compared to actual dimensions in the model structure to assess TEM accuracy for metrology. The effects of specimen tilt, specimen thickness, objective lens defocus, and coefficient of spherical aberration (Cs) on measurement accuracy were explored for nominal 10-Å gate oxide thickness. Results from this work suggest that accurate metrology of ultrathin gate oxides (i.e., limited to several percent error) is feasible on a consistent basis only by using a Cs-corrected microscope. However, fundamental limitations remain for characterizing defects in gate oxides using HRTEM, even with the new generation of Cs-corrected microscopes.