The Pentagon, hoping to exploit U.S. technological advantages over Iraq and provide American troops with an even more lethal arsenal, has accelerated development and deployment of several new weapons for potential use in a Persian Gulf war, according to Defense Department officials.

In addition, the military is dramatically increasing production of some major new munitions, while modifying other weapons to make them more suitable for use against Iraqi forces entrenched in the desert.

A new air-to-air missile, a sophisticated Air Force targeting system and electronic jamming devices are among the developing systems under consideration for quicker deployment with Operation Desert Shield. Others, including a long-range Army missile and new aircraft software, already have been rushed into the field. The military also has "surged" production of its newest antiaircraft missiles, Navy attack missiles and infantry machine guns.

This emphasis on developing and delivering new weaponry reflects a conviction in the Pentagon that U.S. weapon technology is a critical counterweight to Iraqi troop strength superiority.

"It is our technological acumen and past investment in defense research and development that gave us all the complex systems that we are deploying in Saudi Arabia, and is giving us the edge, should war come," Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a speech in London Dec. 5.

A major war in the gulf would, in effect, serve as a proving ground for a number of military concepts adopted by the United States in the 15 years since South Vietnam fell. The fighting prowess of a volunteer military, the "total force" interweaving of active and reserve units, and the so-called AirLand Battle Doctrine -- the U.S. blueprint of how to fight -- will all be tested.

But few issues are more critical to military success and survival of U.S. troops than the new generation of weapons. "We have a tremendous amount of new equipment and new weaponry that we are using for the first time -- never before been used in battle," retired Col. Trevor N. Dupuy, a prominent miltary analyst, told the House Armed Services Committee recently. "We do not have real assurance that we know what the maintenance requirements and the supply requirements are going to be for those weapons until they are used in battle."

Several officers acknowledged that military program managers and defense contractors are eager to showcase their new products if war breaks out.

"They would very much like a field test," one senior general said. "In some cases it would be politically advantageous to say that the CINC {Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the gulf} said this was important, that he needed it, and that we sent it to him."

Congressional leaders also have voiced concern that the Pentagon may use the gulf crisis as a means to obtain extra funding for weapon programs that had been sharply cut before Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2. The Pentagon is expected to ask Congress in early February for at least $30 billion as an emergency supplement to underwrite Desert Shield for fiscal 1991.

"I will not deny that there probably are those in the Department of Defense who might be thinking that the supplemental is an opportunity to get well in some other regard," Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney told a congressional committee earlier this month. "But we'll do our level best . . . to make certain that it . . . accurately reflects the true costs of Desert Shield."

Military officials cautioned that they are trying to prudently evaluate not only the readiness of new systems for combat, but also whether the level of training and logistical support for the weapons is adequate to justify deployment.

"We feel no pressure here to push systems into the {gulf} theater," Lt. Gen. Thomas B. Ferguson Jr., commander of the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Division in Ohio, said in an interview. "There's no environment that says, 'Wow! Wouldn't it be great if we could get such-and-such a system over there and get some combat time on it?' . . . There's none of that mentality."

Some of the new weapons are intended to increase survival chances of U.S. troops by allowing them to fire missiles and "smart" bombs from a relatively safe distance.

The military has pushed some systems into the Middle East before field testing was complete and, in one case, before the missile was fully certified for operational use. SLAM, the Navy's Standoff Land Attack Missile, was developed after the U.S. attack on Libya in 1986 to provide precise bombing capability with a weapon that Navy pilots could fire outside enemy antiaircraft range.

SLAM has been deployed with Desert Shield naval forces even though the missile has not yet reached its "initial operational capability," the military's formal benchmark for beginning fleet deployment, sources said. Navy officials believe the need for a "standoff" weapon that helps safeguard pilots outweighs concerns over whether SLAM is totally prepared for war.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Army for the first time deployed its new long-range conventional ballistic missile called the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), designed to destroy enemy ground forces deep beyond the front lines. Although the missile has been field tested with only one unit, the Army has accelerated production of the 152 missiles funded by Congress in fiscal 1990, officials said.

A number of Air Force systems are under consideration for accelerated development because of Desert Shield, officials said. Deployment decisions will depend in large measure on whether Schwarzkopf and his staff request the systems. Among the weapons: AMRAAM, the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, is intended to be the next generation weapon used by Air Force and Navy pilots in dogfights against enemy planes. Long plagued with problems in development, Ferguson said AMRAAM is "clearly on the horizon for deployment" to Desert Shield although the timing is uncertain.

The LANTIRN targeting system is intended to provide pilots with the ability to attack ground targets at night with great accuracy. Now in low-level production, the LANTIRN system is being tested and "is a very likely candidate for deployment" if Desert Shield lasts well into 1991, Ferguson said.

The AGM-130 is a television-guided munition with a range of about 40 miles. Flight testing was completed a year ago and the Air Force eventually hopes to buy more than 4,000 of the rocket-powered bombs. Production has just begun and the weapon probably would not be available for about a year.

The services also have made emergency modifications to some weapons. For example, the Navy is adapting its Rockeye cluster bomb so it can be used for land attacks rather than against sea targets, as originally designed. A modified fuze will disperse the weapon's 247 "bomblets" at higher altitudes, spewing them over larger target areas, according to Navy officials.

The Army is accelerating production of its newest air defense weapon, the Patriot, for protection against Iraqi Scuds and other missiles; the service also has sped production of the newest infantry machine gun, the Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW, as well as ammunition for the new M-1A1 Abrams tank and M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

"We've seen a significant surge on the 120mm tank ammunition," said Toby Warson, chief executive officer of the Minnesota-based Alliant Techsystems, one of two defense companies in the nation producing those munitions. "On the {Bradley} 25mm we have gone to seven-day, three-shift operations. . . . We're stretching all of our suppliers for their maximum output." Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.