Report: British fighters, cargo aircraft arrive in Mediterranean

The combat aircraft heading toward the Akrotiri air base will join the four American Arleigh Burke-class destroyers already patrolling the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean. 

Armed with long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, the USS Mahan, USS Gravely, USS Barry and USS Ramage are “poised and positioned should any options be taken,” a defense official told The Washington Times on Monday. 

Reports of the deployment of British airpower to the region come hours after U.K. defense chief Philip Hammond was briefed on possible American battle plans for Syria by Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal Should Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security MORE

Hagel told Hammond and French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian that the Pentagon " is prepared for any contingency involving Syria," the Defense Department said Tuesday. 

U.S. and allied military leaders are reportedly preparing for a three-day mission of surgical strikes against targets inside Syria. 

U.S. officials told NBC the strikes would be limited in scope and are not designed to help rebel forces in the country overthrow President Bashar Assad. 

The strikes would be in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against rebel forces by Assad's troops. 

Administration officials said over the weekend they have “little doubt” that Assad's forces used poison gas. 

According to opposition groups, the death toll from the attack stands at more than 1,000.

Use of those weapons crosses "red line" set by the Obama administration, which would trigger a U.S. military response. 

The United Nations has sent an inspection team to investigate claims of chemical weapons use by Assad's forces. 

The team was able to begin its investigation Monday despite a sniper attack but delayed its work Tuesday out of safety concerns, according to the U.N.