Development of the missile began in the year 1986, at the same time the similar PL-8 was developed; it was based on its predecessors PL-5 and PL-7. The reason for the fact that China was developing two similar AAMs at the same time was probably, that China was not allowed to sell it´s license build Python-3 copy, the PL-8, on export market, so that the IR-seeker of the PL-8 was fitted on a home-made missile.
The PL-9 is offered on export market since 1989; however no one was interested in buying the missile, while only a few of them are used by the People´s Liberation Army Air Force of China.
During the 1991 Paris Air Show, an Air-to-Ground variant of the PL-9, called DK-9, was first revealed, it was developed by Beifang Industrial Company. The missile was later modified, but it is still unsuccessful on export market and only small numbers are in service with the PLAAF.