EGLIN AFB —A proposal to bring as many as three F-35 stealth fighter jet squadrons to Tyndall Air Force beginning in 2023 will not affect the F-35 pilot and maintenance missions at Eglin Air Force base, an Air Force spokeswoman said late Friday afternoon.

"They would continue the mission that they've been conducting," spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an interview shortly after Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced the proposal to bring the F-35 squadrons, which could comprise as many as 72 of the fifth-generation multiple-role fighter jets, to Tyndall AFB.

PHOTOS: The nose gear of an Eglin-based F-35 collapsed in August 2018

Wilson's proposal comes as Tyndall AFB, which was all but destroyed by October's Category 4 Hurricane Michael, is continuing to rebuild. As part of that process, 31 F-22 Raptor fighter jets from Tyndall are being moved to Eglin, 60 miles west of Tyndall, as Raptor training operations are moved to Eglin for an as yet undetermined period of time.

Before the hurricane, Tyndall AFB was home to the 325th Fighter Wing, comprised of two F-22 squadrons — an operational squadron and the training squadron now working out of Eglin AFB.

According to Wilson's Friday announcement, the F-22s wouldn't be returning to Tyndall under the proposal to bring the three F-35 squadrons to the Panama City base. The Air Force would conduct a formal process to determine the best location for the F-22 training squadron currently displaced to Eglin AFB, according to a news release including Wilson's announcement.

Implementing the proposal to bring the F-35 squadrons to Tyndall would require Congress to approve supplemental funding for rebuilding Tyndall AFB, Wilson noted in her statement.

"We are talking with congressional leaders about this plan and will need their help with the supplemental funding needed to restore the base," Wilson said. "We have recommended that the best path forward to increase readiness and use money wisely is to consolidate the operational F-22s formerly at Tyndall in Alaska, Hawaii and Virginia, and make the decision now to put the next three squadrons of F-35s beyond those for which we have already made decisions at Tyndall."

The proposal is gathering support from Florida's congressional delegation.

“These squadrons of F-35s are the future of the Air Force and will strengthen our national security, while reinforcing the role of our airmen at Tyndall Air Force Base,” said Dr. Neal Dunn, the Republican U.S. representative whose district includes Tyndall AFB.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., issued a statement noting that "(w)hile Tyndall has a long road to full recovery, I am proud of what the base leadership, Air Force personnel and their families have been able to accomplish in the weeks since the storm destroyed most of the base."

The F-35s that would come to Tyndall would be newly constructed aircraft, rather than jets already within the Air Force fleet, Stefanek said. Air Force officials contend that using recovery funds to rebuild Tyndall AFB specifically to accommodate the F-35 is a wise approach to bringing the base back on line.

"We have been given a chance to use this current challenge as an opportunity to further improve our lethality and readiness ...," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in the news release proposing the Tyndall AFB rebuilding strategy.

"The F-35 is a game-changer with its unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability, and adaptability," Goldfein added. "Bringing this new mission to Tyndall ensures that the U.S Air Force is ready to dominate in any conflict."

Eglin AFB currently has 33 F-35s on the 33rd Fighter Wing flightline, and in discussions under way separately from the proposal for Tyndall AFB, Eglin — which is authorized to have 59 F-35s — could get some additional aircraft as part of a "strategic basing" initiative.