PL-5 is a further Chinese development of PL-2. Although earlier PL series have been developed from the former-Soviet Vympel K-13, all of them were infrared guided. PL-5 AAM is the first Chinese attempt to follow the former-Soviet practice of develop both Semi-active radar homing (SARH) and infrared guidance for the same missile, and the main contractor was the 612th Research Institute (later reorganized as Luoyang Electro-Optics Technology Development Centre (EOTDC)).
Work on the SARH version of PL-5 begun in April, 1966, and first test flight was conducted in July 1971. Live round test fire begun in September 1972, but due to Cultural Revolution that had serious disrupted and delayed production and development, all of the missiles of the first batch of production ran out before the test could be completed. It was not until April, 1984, well after the end of Cultural Revolution, when the 2nd batch was completed and tests were resumed in August 1984, finally completed in March 1982. However, tests and evaluation revealed that the SARH guided version was not adequate enough and this version was consequently cancelled in 1983.
The infrared guided version of PL-5 was equally affected by the same political turmoil in China, and its development was delayed even further: it was not until September 1986 when this version finally received its state certification and the missile entered mass production in the same year. Despite the delay, this version proved to be more successful and many further upgrades were developed later on, including PL-5E.