The incident-ion energy distribution in a collisionless radio-frequency (rf) sheath is derived analytically for a general electric-field configuration in the high-frequency regime. The analysis is based on a two-time-scale asymptotic expansion of the ion equation of motion, where the ratio of the ion transit frequency tr to the rf frequency is assumed to be small. It is shown that the ponderomotive force due to the rf modulation of the electric field exerts a retarding effect on the ion motion, counteracting the dc-bias field. The results obtained here are applicable to rf-discharge-based process tools used in microelectronics fabrication, where the conditions of low collisionality and high rf frequency are usually satisfied. © 1992 The American Physical Society.