U.S. satellites rapidly saw that the aircraft were there, according to the official.
The assessment over the weekend was that the fighter jets were on their way. The same official said the Russians have begun flying drones around the coastal city of Latakia.
With no ISIS fighters in the area, the move raises serious questions about the Russians' intentions with their military buildup, which the U.S. has questioned the purpose of and watched with wariness. The action points to a higher likelihood that the Russian plan is to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rather than fight the terror group.
The U.S. has its own effort underway to defeat ISIS but has also said that Assad must go.
Asked about what the U.S. can do about the situation, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told CNN at a press conference Thursday that "it's a matter of seeing what the Russians do."
Carter said he hopes the Russians will fight ISIS, "but if it's a matter of pouring gasoline on the civil war in Syria, that is certainly not productive from our point of view."
Russia will deploy surface-to-air missiles to Syria, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said, according to the ministry's Twitter feed. Russia will deploy S-400 defense missile systems to its Hmeymim airbase near Latakia, Syria, on the Mediterranean coast, the ministry says.
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