Short Brothers & Harland in Belfast had already established production lines manufacturing Canberra B2 and B6 variants. The PR.9 would however see the company undertaking major redesign and development of the type incorporating improved hydraulic systems and a hinged nose for access to the navigators station which now included an ejection seat. The PR.9 also had an enlarged wing with more powerful Rolls Royce Avon 206 engines fitted. Eventually a total of 23 PR9’s were built between 1958 and 1962, however only 21 were actually delivered to the RAF. One aircraft (XH129) was written off before it was even delivered and another (XH132) was used for missile trials, being redesignated the SC.9.
In Jan 1960 the Canberra PR9 entered service with 58 Sqn at RAF Wyton and the first operational sortie was flow three months later. No 13 Squadron became the second unit to operate the type in the summer of 1961 from its base in Malta begining a long association between the PR.9 and operations in the Mediterranean and Middle East. During 1962, PR9s were used to photograph Russian shipping movements during the Cuban crisis, but by early 1963, No. 58 Sqn had handed over its aircraft to No. 39 Sqn in Malta when it reverted to being a PR.7 squadron. When the RAF withdrew from its remaining bases in the Gulf during 1971, No. 13 Sqn moved to Malta and replaced No. 39 Sqn who disbanded. Now assigned to NATO, it provided the only high altitude reconnaissance squadron on its southern flank until 1978 when it moved to RAF Wyton before disbanding in 1981. The last remaining PR9s remained on the strength of No. 39 Sqn until it was disbanded in June 1982 and replaced by No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) also at Wyton under the control of No. 18 Group. However, rationalisation of the RAF in the early 1990s resulted in No. 1 PRU assuming the name of No. 39 Sqn (although officially its title was No. 39 (1 PRU) Squadron. Throughout the Cold War the PR.9 flew missions when and where surveillance was called for with in more recent years the aircraft being deployed for operations over Rwanda, Kosovo the 2003 Gulf conflict and Afghanistan in 2006.
XH131 was the third aircraft from the PR.9 production line at Belfast and is the oldest surviving example of the type. The aircraft was purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and transported to Northern Ireland to join the collection during December 2010.