A Bush administration plan to sell Saudi Arabia a $6.74 billion package of arms provoked questions and controversy on Capitol Hill yesterday from legislators and aides who noted that hundreds of armored vehicles and other weapons in the deal cannot be delivered before next year.

Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said in disclosing details of the new, scaled-down package that "it's materiel that they urgently need for their defense," largely due to the "overwhelming threat posed by Iraqi military forces" that invaded Kuwait last month. Congress must object within 30 days or the transaction goes through.

In light of this perceived urgency, some legislators and staff said they were wondering why the package includes 150 M-1A2 tanks, the most advanced in the U.S. arsenal, which the manufacturer says will not be available until mid-1993, as well as 200 Bradley Fighting Vehicles that will not be delivered until 1992, and a new naval command, control and communications system that will not be completed before 1995.

The package, said to be the second largest provided to the Saudis by Washington, also includes 12 Apache combat helicopters to be shipped in 12 months, and 10,000 wheeled vehicles that will be transferred more quickly from U.S. war reserve stocks in what officials call an unprecedented, single drawdown of U.S. military equipment.

Several items in the package, including the Apaches, six Patriot air defense missile systems (plus a training unit) and nine Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, have not previously been ordered by the Saudis and would represent a marked improvement in quality of the kingdom's armaments. Others, such as the Bradley vehicle and the M-1A2 tanks, have been purchased in separate packages but not yet received by the Saudis.

The administration's announcement yesterday also included a proposed $37 million sale of older M-60A3 tanks to the island nation of Bahrain, off the Saudi coast in the Persian Gulf.

Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), the majority whip and a longtime critic of arms sales to Arab countries, said, "The so-called emergency arms sale . . . raises more questions than it answers." He asked if the lengthy delivery schedules mean "the administration {is} telling us that the Iraqi invasion will last another three years at least, and that American troops will be in the desert that long?"

Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.), a House Foreign Affairs Committee member who has also criticized such sales, said, "It doesn't entirely track with the administration's commitment to include only emergency items." But Levine said the new package is an improvement over a $21 billion Saudi arms proposal by the Pentagon two weeks ago and that he had not decided whether to oppose it.

The White House said last Friday that the package was the first of two that would be sent to Capitol Hill to bolster Saudi Arabian security, pledging to seek immediate approval of only those items "requiring early action" because of the Iraqi invasion. The second package, including F-15 fighter planes, is expected to be presented in January.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lundquist, a Pentagon spokesman, said the "majority" of the items would be provided to Saudi Arabia in 12 months or less, evidently referring to the trucks, jeeps, Patriot air-defense systems and rocket systems to be provided from U.S. storage or taken out of production lines under Defense Department contracts.

Lundquist said none of these weapons would be taken from operational U.S. military units, enabling the Pentagon to certify that the drawdowns would have "no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness." Lundquist said that "despite . . . longer delivery times" for other equipment, "these are included because of their importance to overall Saudi requirements." However, the only item not tied to the Iraqi invasion in the administration's message to Congress yesterday was the $307 million naval command system, which the Pentagon said is needed to assist operations with U.S. and allied forces in the region.

One classified weapon, the TOW II anti-tank missile, required a special notification because of the possibility that any foes who obtained it could develop countermeasures. But the Pentagon expressed confidence that the Saudis "can provide essentially the same degree of protection for the sensitive technology" as the United States.

U.S. officials in Riyadh said yesterday that congressional approval of the Saudi arms package would probably lead to the eventual purchase of 100 or more advanced U.S. interceptor aircraft, such as the F-16 Falcon or the F/A-18 Hornet, to replace the aging fleet of Northrop F-5 interceptors in the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Staff writer Patrick E. Tyler in Saudi Arabia contributed to this report.

Five-year package of improvements to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces Command Control and Communications System: $307 million

Ten-thousand tactical vehicles, including 1,200 High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles, various trucks, trailers, transporters, plus supporting equipment, to be provided from U.S. Army inventory and equipment: $1.8 billion

One-hundred-fifty TOW II anti-armor guided missile launchers and spare parts: $33 million

Armored vehicles and assorted weaponry, including 150 M-1A2 tanks, 200 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 1,750 TOW IIA missiles, 207 M-113 armored personnel carriers, 17 M-88A1 and 43 M-578 Recovery vehicles: $3.135 billion

Twelve AH-64 Apache helicopters, spare engines and associated weaponry, including 155 Hellfire missiles: $300 million

Nine Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), including 2,880 tactical rockets, nine command post carriers, and associated communications and training gear.

Eight UH-60 Medevac helicopters and spare parts: $121 million

Seven Patriot air-defense units (one for training only), including 384 guided missiles, 48 launcher stations, radars and control stations, to be provided from U.S. Army inventory: $984 million Bahrain

Twenty-seven M-60A3 tanks and related armament, plus spare parts, to be provided from the U.S. Army inventory: $37 million